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The actinomyosin motor drives malaria parasite red blood cell invasion but not egress

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posted on 07.09.2020 by Abigail J Perrin, Christine R Collins, Matthew RG Russell, Lucy M Collinson, David A Baker, Michael J Blackman
Apicomplexa are obligate intracellular parasites that actively invade, replicate within, and egress from host cells. The parasite actinomyosin-based molecular motor complex (often referred to as the glideosome) is considered an important mediator of parasite motility and virulence. Mature intracellular parasites often become motile just prior to egress from their host cells, and in some genera, this motility is important for successful egress as well as for subsequent invasion of new host cells. To determine whether actinomyosin-based motility is important in the red blood cell egress and invasion activities of the malaria parasite, we have used a conditional genetic approach to delete GAP45, a primary component of the glideosome, in asexual blood stages of Plasmodium falciparum Our results confirm the essential nature of GAP45 for invasion but show that P. falciparum does not require a functional motor complex to undergo egress from the red blood cell. Malarial egress therefore differs fundamentally from induced egress in the related apicomplexan Toxoplasma gondiiIMPORTANCE Clinical malaria results from cycles of replication of single-celled parasites of the genus Plasmodium in red blood cells. Intracellular parasite replication is followed by a highly regulated, protease-dependent process called egress, in which rupture of the bounding membranes allows explosive release of daughter merozoites which rapidly invade fresh red cells. A parasite actinomyosin-based molecular motor (the glideosome) has been proposed to provide the mechanical force to drive invasion. Studies of the related parasite Toxoplasma gondii have shown that induced egress requires parasite motility, mediated by a functional glideosome. However, whether the glideosome has a similar essential role in egress of malaria merozoites from red blood cells is unknown. Here, we show that although a functional glideosome is required for red blood cell invasion by Plasmodium falciparum merozoites, it is not required for egress. These findings place further emphasis on the key role of the protease cascade in malarial egress.

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