Disrupting assembly of the inner membrane complex blocks Plasmodium falciparum sexual stage development

Published: October 6, 2017


Parkyn Schneider M, Liu B, Glock P, Suttie A, McHugh E, Kenny S, Andrew D, Batinovic S, Williamson N, Hanssen E, McMillan P, Hliscs M, Tilley L,* Dixon MWA* Disrupting assembly of the inner membrane complex blocks Plasmodium falciparum sexual stage development. PLoS Pathog. 2017; 13(10): e1006659. doi:  10.1371/journal.ppat.1006659


Transmission of malaria parasites relies on the formation of a specialized blood form called the gametocyte. Gametocytes of the human pathogen, Plasmodium falciparum, adopt a crescent shape. Their dramatic morphogenesis is driven by the assembly of a network of microtubules and an underpinning inner membrane complex (IMC). Using super-resolution optical and electron microscopies we define the ultrastructure of the IMC at different stages of gametocyte development. We characterize two new proteins of the gametocyte IMC, called PhIL1 and PIP1. Genetic disruption of PhIL1 or PIP1 ablates elongation and prevents formation of transmission-ready mature gametocytes. The maturation defect is accompanied by failure to form an enveloping IMC and a marked swelling of the digestive vacuole, suggesting PhIL1 and PIP1 are required for correct membrane trafficking. Using immunoprecipitation and mass spectrometry we reveal that PhIL1 interacts with known and new components of the gametocyte IMC.

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