Parasitology research

Plasmodium alveolins possess distinct but structurally and functionally related multi-repeat domains.

PMID 25475193


The invasive and motile life stages of malaria parasites (merozoite, ookinete and sporozoite) possess a distinctive cortical structure termed the pellicle. The pellicle is characterised by a double-layered 'inner membrane complex' (IMC) located underneath the plasma membrane, which is supported by a cytoskeletal structure termed the subpellicular network (SPN). The SPN consists of intermediate filaments, whose major constituents include a family of proteins called alveolins. Here, we re-appraise the alveolins in the genus Plasmodium with respect to their repertoire, structure and interrelatedness. Amongst 13 family members identified, we distinguish two domain types that, albeit distinct at the primary structure level, are structurally related and contain tandem repeats with a consensus 12-amino acid periodicity. Analysis in Plasmodium berghei of the most divergent alveolin, PbIMC1d, reveals a zoite-specific expression in ookinetes and a subcellular localisation in the pellicle, consistent with its predicted role as a SPN component. Knockout of PbIMC1d gives rise to a wild-type phenotype with respect to ookinete morphogenesis, tensile strength, gliding motility and infectivity, presenting the first example of apparent functional redundancy amongst alveolin family members.