Infection and immunity

SSP3 is a novel Plasmodium yoelii sporozoite surface protein with a role in gliding motility.

PMID 25156733


Plasmodium sporozoites develop within oocysts in the mosquito midgut wall and then migrate to the salivary glands. After transmission, they embark on a complex journey to the mammalian liver, where they infect hepatocytes. Proteins on the sporozoite surface likely mediate multiple steps of this journey, yet only a few sporozoite surface proteins have been described. Here, we characterize a novel, conserved sporozoite surface protein (SSP3) in the rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium yoelii. SSP3 is a putative type I transmembrane protein unique to Plasmodium. By using epitope tagging and SSP3-specific antibodies in conjunction with immunofluorescence microscopy, we showed that SSP3 is expressed in mosquito midgut oocyst sporozoites, exhibiting an intracellular localization. In sporozoites derived from the mosquito salivary glands, however, SSP3 localized predominantly to the sporozoite surface as determined by immunoelectron microscopy. However, the ectodomain of SSP3 appeared to be inaccessible to antibodies in nonpermeabilized salivary gland sporozoites. Antibody-induced shedding of the major surface protein circumsporozoite protein (CSP) exposed the SSP3 ectodomain to antibodies in some sporozoites. Targeted deletion of SSP3 adversely affected in vitro sporozoite gliding motility, which, surprisingly, impacted neither their cell traversal capacity, host cell invasion in vitro, nor infectivity in vivo. Together, these data reveal a previously unappreciated complexity of the Plasmodium sporozoite surface proteome and the roles of surface proteins in distinct biological activities of sporozoites.