Extracellular vesicles could be a putative posttranscriptional regulatory mechanism that shapes intracellular RNA levels in Plasmodium falciparum.
Plasmodium falciparum secretes extracellular vesicles (PfEVs) that contain parasite-derived RNA. However, the significance of the secreted RNA remains unexplored. Here, we compare secreted and intracellular RNA from asexual cultures of six P. falciparum lines. We find that secretion of RNA via extracellular vesicles is not only periodic throughout the asexual intraerythrocytic developmental cycle but is also highly conserved across P. falciparum isolates. We further demonstrate that the phases of RNA secreted via extracellular vesicles are discernibly shifted compared to those of the intracellular RNA within the secreting whole parasite. Finally, transcripts of genes with no known function during the asexual intraerythrocytic developmental cycle are enriched in PfEVs compared to the whole parasite. We conclude that the secretion of extracellular vesicles could be a putative posttranscriptional RNA regulation mechanism that is part of or synergise the classic RNA decay processes to maintain intracellular RNA levels in P. falciparum.