Plasmodium falciparum guanylyl cyclase-alpha and the activity of its appended P4-ATPase domain are essential for cGMP synthesis and blood-stage egress.
journal contributionposted on 04.02.2021, 14:01 by Stephanie D Nofal, Avnish Patel, Michael J Blackman, Christian Flueck, David A Baker
Guanylyl cyclases (GCs) synthesize cyclic GMP (cGMP) and, together with cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterases, are responsible for regulating levels of this intracellular messenger which mediates myriad functions across eukaryotes. In malaria parasites (Plasmodium spp), as well as their apicomplexan and ciliate relatives, GCs are associated with a P4-ATPase-like domain in a unique bifunctional configuration. P4-ATPases generate membrane bilayer lipid asymmetry by translocating phospholipids from the outer to the inner leaflet. Here, we investigate the role of Plasmodium falciparum guanylyl cyclase alpha (GCα) and its associated P4-ATPase module, showing that asexual blood-stage parasites lacking both the cyclase and P4-ATPase domains are unable to egress from host erythrocytes. GCα-null parasites cannot synthesize cGMP or mobilize calcium, a cGMP-dependent protein kinase (PKG)-driven requirement for egress. Using chemical complementation with a cGMP analogue and point mutagenesis of a crucial conserved residue within the P4-ATPase domain, we show that P4-ATPase activity is upstream of and linked to cGMP synthesis. Collectively, our results demonstrate that GCα is a critical regulator of PKG and that its associated P4-ATPase domain plays a primary role in generating cGMP for merozoite egress.IMPORTANCE The clinical manifestations of malaria arise due to successive rounds of replication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells. Once mature, daughter merozoites are released from infected erythrocytes to invade new cells in a tightly regulated process termed egress. Previous studies have shown that the activation of cyclic GMP (cGMP) signaling is critical for initiating egress. Here, we demonstrate that GCα, a unique bifunctional enzyme, is the sole enzyme responsible for cGMP production during the asexual blood stages of Plasmodium falciparum and is required for the cellular events leading up to merozoite egress. We further demonstrate that in addition to the GC domain, the appended ATPase-like domain of GCα is also involved in cGMP production. Our results highlight the critical role of GCα in cGMP signaling required for orchestrating malaria parasite egress.