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PMRT1, a Plasmodium-Specific Parasite Plasma Membrane Transporter, Is Essential for Asexual and Sexual Blood Stage Development.

Wichers JS, Mesén-Ramírez P, Fuchs G, Yu-Strzelczyk J, Stäcker J, von Thien H, Alder A, Henshall I, Liffner B, Nagel G, Löw C, Wilson D, Spielmann T, Gao S, Gilberger TW, Bachmann A, Strauss J
Centre for Structural Systems Biology, Hamburg, Germany.


Membrane transport proteins perform crucial roles in cell physiology. The obligate intracellular parasite Plasmodium falciparum, an agent of human malaria, relies on membrane transport proteins for the uptake of nutrients from the host, disposal of metabolic waste, exchange of metabolites between organelles, and generation and maintenance of transmembrane electrochemical gradients for its growth and replication within human erythrocytes. Despite their importance for Plasmodium cellular physiology, the functional roles of a number of membrane transport proteins remain unclear, which is particularly true for orphan membrane transporters that have no or limited sequence homology to transporter proteins in other evolutionary lineages. Therefore, in the current study, we applied endogenous tagging, targeted gene disruption, conditional knockdown, and knockout approaches to investigate the subcellular localization and essentiality of six membrane transporters during intraerythrocytic development of P. falciparum parasites. They are localized at different subcellular structures-the food vacuole, the apicoplast, and the parasite plasma membrane-and four out of the six membrane transporters are essential during asexual development. Additionally, the plasma membrane resident transporter 1 (PMRT1; PF3D7_1135300), a unique Plasmodium-specific plasma membrane transporter, was shown to be essential for gametocytogenesis and functionally conserved within the genus Plasmodium. Overall, we reveal the importance of four orphan transporters to blood stage P. falciparum development, which have diverse intracellular localizations and putative functions. IMPORTANCE Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes possess multiple compartments with designated membranes. Transporter proteins embedded in these membranes not only facilitate movement of nutrients, metabolites, and other molecules between these compartments, but also are common therapeutic targets and can confer antimalarial drug resistance. Orphan membrane transporters in P. falciparum without sequence homology to transporters in other evolutionary lineages and divergent from host transporters may constitute attractive targets for novel intervention approaches. Here, we localized six of these putative transporters at different subcellular compartments and probed their importance during asexual parasite growth by using reverse genetic approaches. In total, only two candidates turned out to be dispensable for the parasite, highlighting four candidates as putative targets for therapeutic interventions. This study reveals the importance of several orphan transporters to blood stage P. falciparum development.

Link to publisher’s web site


  • Journal: mBio
  • Published: 11/04/2022
  • Volume: 13
  • Issue: 2
  • Pagination: e0062322


Health Issue