Plasmodium centrin PbCEN-4 localizes to the putative MTOC and is dispensable for malaria parasite proliferation

Centrins are calmodulin-like phosphoproteins present in the centrosome and play an active role in the duplication, separation and organization of centrosomal structures such as the microtubule-organizing centre (MTOC) during mitosis. They are also major components of the basal body of flagella and cilia. In Plasmodium spp., the parasite that causes malaria, mitosis is closed during asexual replication and the MTOC is embedded within the intact nuclear membrane. The MTOC has been named the centriolar plaque and is similar to the spindle pole body in yeast. In all phases of asexual replication, repeated rounds of nuclear division precede cell division. However, our knowledge of the location and function of centrins during this process is limited. Previous studies have identified four putative centrins in the human parasite Plasmodiumfalciparum. We report here the cellular localization of an alveolate-specific centrin (PbCEN-4) during the atypical cell division of asexual replicative stages, using live cell imaging with the rodent malaria parasite P. berghei as a model system. We show that this centrin forms a multi-protein complex with other centrins, but is dispensable for parasite proliferation.