A small mitochondrial protein present in myzozoans is essential for malaria transmission.
ABSTRACT: Myzozoans (which include dinoflagellates, chromerids and apicomplexans) display notable divergence from their ciliate sister group, including a reduced mitochondrial genome and divergent metabolic processes. The factors contributing to these divergent processes are still poorly understood and could serve as potential drug targets in disease-causing protists. Here, we report the identification and characterization of a small mitochondrial protein from the rodent-infecting apicomplexan parasite Plasmodium berghei that is essential for development in its mosquito host. Parasites lacking the gene mitochondrial protein ookinete developmental defect (mpodd) showed malformed parasites that were unable to transmit to mosquitoes. Knockout parasites displayed reduced mitochondrial mass without affecting organelle integrity, indicating no role of the protein in mitochondrial biogenesis or morphology maintenance but a likely role in mitochondrial import or metabolism. Using genetic complementation experiments, we identified a previously unrecognized Plasmodium falciparum homologue that can rescue the mpodd(-) phenotype, thereby showing that the gene is functionally conserved. As far as can be detected, mpodd is found in myzozoans, has homologues in the phylum Apicomplexa and appears to have arisen in free-living dinoflagellates. This suggests that the MPODD protein has a conserved mitochondrial role that is important for myzozoans. While previous studies identified a number of essential proteins which are generally highly conserved evolutionarily, our study identifies, for the first time, a non-canonical protein fulfilling a crucial function in the mitochondrion during parasite transmission.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Despite the development of malaria control programs, billions of people are still at risk for this infectious disease. Recently, the idea of the transmission-blocking vaccine, which works by interrupting the infection of mosquitoes by parasites, has gained attention as a promising strategy for malaria control and eradication. To date, a limited number of surface proteins have been identified in mosquito-stage parasites and investigated as potential targets for transmission-blocking vaccines. Therefore, for the development of effective transmission-blocking strategies in epidemic areas, it is necessary to identify novel zygote/ookinete surface proteins as candidate antigens. METHODS: Since the expression of many zygote/ookinete proteins is regulated post-transcriptionally, proteins that are regulated by well-known translational mediators were focused. Through in silico screening, CPW-WPC family proteins were selected as potential zygote/ookinete surface proteins. All experiments were performed in the rodent malaria parasite, Plasmodium yoelii XNL. mRNA and protein expression profiles were examined by RT-PCR and western blotting, respectively, over the course of the life cycle of the malaria parasite. Protein function was also investigated by the generation of gene-disrupted transgenic parasites. RESULTS: The CPW-WPC protein family, named after the unique WxC repeat domains, is highly conserved among Plasmodium species. It is revealed that CPW-WPC mRNA transcripts are transcribed in gametocytes, while CPW-WPC proteins are expressed in zygote/ookinete-stage parasites. Localization analysis reveals that one of the CPW-WPC family members, designated as PyCPW-WPC-1, is a novel zygote/ookinete stage-specific surface protein. Targeted disruption of the pycpw-wpc-1 gene caused no obvious defects during ookinete and oocyst formation, suggesting that PyCPW-WPC-1 is not essential for mosquito-stage parasite development. CONCLUSIONS: It is demonstrated that PyCPW-WPC-1 can be classified as a novel, post-transcriptionally regulated zygote/ookinete surface protein. Additional studies are required to determine whether all CPW-WPC family members are also present on the ookinete surface and share similar biological roles during mosquito-stage parasite development. Further investigations of CPW-WPC family proteins may facilitate understanding of parasite biology in the mosquito stage and development of transmission-blocking vaccines.
Project description:Plasmodium ookinete invasion of the mosquito midgut is a crucial step of the parasite life cycle but little is known about the molecular mechanisms involved. Previously, a phage display peptide library screen identified SM1, a peptide that binds to the mosquito midgut epithelium and inhibits ookinete invasion. SM1 was characterized as a mimotope of an ookinete surface enolase and SM1 presumably competes with enolase, the presumed ligand, for binding to a putative midgut receptor. Here we identify a mosquito midgut receptor that binds both SM1 and ookinete surface enolase, termed "enolase-binding protein" (EBP). Moreover, we determined that Plasmodium berghei parasites are heterogeneous for midgut invasion, as some parasite clones are strongly inhibited by SM1 whereas others are not. The SM1-sensitive parasites required the mosquito EBP receptor for midgut invasion whereas the SM1-resistant parasites invaded the mosquito midgut independently of EBP. These experiments provide evidence that Plasmodium ookinetes can invade the mosquito midgut by alternate pathways. Furthermore, another peptide from the original phage display screen, midgut peptide 2 (MP2), strongly inhibited midgut invasion by P. berghei (SM1-sensitive and SM1-resistant) and Plasmodium falciparum ookinetes, suggesting that MP2 binds to a separate, universal receptor for midgut invasion.
Project description:BACKGROUND:For the success of the malaria control and eradication programme it is essential to reduce parasite transmission by mosquito vectors. In the midguts of mosquitoes fed with parasite-infected blood, sexual-stage parasites fertilize to develop into motile ookinetes that traverse midgut epithelial cells and reside adjacent the basal lamina. Therefore, the ookinete is a promising target of transmission-blocking vaccines to break the parasite lifecycle in mosquito vectors. However, the molecular mechanisms of ookinete formation and invasion of epithelial cells have not been fully elucidated. A unique structure called the crystalloid body has been identified in the ookinete cytoplasm by electron microscopy, but its biological functions remain unclear. METHODS:A recombinant protein of a novel molecule, designated as crystalloid body specific PH domain-containing protein of Plasmodium yoelii (PyCryPH), was synthesized using a wheat germ cell-free system. Specific rabbit antibodies against PyCryPH were obtained to characterize the expression and localization of PyCryPH during sexual-stage parasite development. In addition, PyCryPH knockout parasites were generated by targeted gene disruption to examine PyCryPH function in mosquito-stage parasite development. RESULTS:Western blot and immunofluorescence assays using specific antibodies showed that PyCryPH is specifically expressed in zygotes and ookinetes. By immunoelectron microscopy it was demonstrated that PyCryPH is localized within crystalloid bodies. Parasites with a disrupted PyCryPH gene developed normally into ookinetes and formed oocysts on the basal lamina of midguts. In addition, the number of sporozoites residing in salivary glands was comparable to that of wild-type parasites. CONCLUSIONS:CryPH, containing a signal peptide and PH domain, is predominantly expressed in zygotes and ookinetes and is localized to crystalloid bodies in P. yoelii. CryPH accumulates in vesicle-like structures prior to the appearance of typical crystalloid bodies. Unlike other known crystalloid body localized proteins, CryPH does not appear to have a multiple domain architecture characteristic of the LAP/CCp family proteins. Although CryPH is highly conserved among Plasmodium, Babesia, Theileria, and Cryptosporidium, PyCryPH is dispensable for the development of invasive ookinetes and sporozoites in mosquito bodies.
Project description:After being ingested by a female Anopheles mosquito during a bloodmeal on an infected host, and before they can reach the mosquito salivary glands to be transmitted to a new host, Plasmodium parasites must establish an infection of the mosquito midgut in the form of oocysts. To achieve this, they must first survive a series of robust innate immune responses that take place prior to, during, and immediately after ookinete traversal of the midgut epithelium. Understanding how parasites may evade these responses could highlight new ways to block malaria transmission. We show that an ookinete and sporozoite surface protein designated as PIMMS43 (Plasmodium Infection of the Mosquito Midgut Screen 43) is required for parasite evasion of the Anopheles coluzzii complement-like response. Disruption of PIMMS43 in the rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium berghei triggers robust complement activation and ookinete elimination upon mosquito midgut traversal. Silencing components of the complement-like system through RNAi largely restores ookinete-to-oocyst transition but oocysts remain small in size and produce a very small number of sporozoites that additionally are not infectious, indicating that PIMMS43 is also essential for sporogonic development in the oocyst. Antibodies that bind PIMMS43 interfere with parasite immune evasion when ingested with the infectious blood meal and significantly reduce the prevalence and intensity of infection. PIMMS43 genetic structure across African Plasmodium falciparum populations indicates allelic adaptation to sympatric vector populations. These data add to our understanding of mosquito-parasite interactions and identify PIMMS43 as a target of malaria transmission blocking.
Project description:Invasion of the malarial parasite into a vector mosquito begins when the motile ookinete transverses the gut epithelium. Adhesive proteins that may mediate this invasive process have not been identified to date. We found that a molecule with an adhesive protein-like structure was expressed in the ookinete of Plasmodium berghei. This protein is structurally homologous to circumsporozoite protein and thrombospondin-related adhesive protein (TRAP)-related protein, CTRP, of Plasmodium falciparum. We named it P. berghei CTRP (PbCTRP) and report here its structure and manner of expression. PbCTRP has six integrin I region-like domains and seven thrombospondin-like domains in its putative extracellular region. This structure is similar to that of CTRP and TRAPs of malaria sporozoite. The putative transmembrane and cytoplasmic regions of PbCTRP, CTRP, and TRAP also have conserved amino acid sequences. PbCTRP is produced at least 10 h after fertilization when zygotes begin transformation to ookinetes. In the mature ookinete, PbCTRP is located mainly in the anterior cytoplasm. The staining pattern was also similar to TRAP in the sporozoite. We suggest that PbCTRP may play a role in ookinete invasive motility and belongs to a protein family together with TRAP and other structurally related proteins of apicomplexan parasites.
Project description:Malaria parasites must undergo development within mosquitoes to be transmitted to a new host. Antivector transmission-blocking vaccines inhibit parasite development by preventing ookinete interaction with mosquito midgut ligands. Therefore, the discovery of novel midgut antigen targets is paramount. Jacalin (a lectin) inhibits ookinete attachment by masking glycan ligands on midgut epithelial surface glycoproteins. However, the identities of these midgut glycoproteins have remained unknown. Here we report on the molecular characterization of an Anopheles gambiae aminopeptidase N (AgAPN1) as the predominant jacalin target on the mosquito midgut luminal surface and provide evidence for its role in ookinete invasion. alpha-AgAPN1 IgG strongly inhibited both Plasmodium berghei and Plasmodium falciparum development in different mosquito species, implying that AgAPN1 has a conserved role in ookinete invasion of the midgut. Molecules targeting single midgut antigens seldom achieve complete abrogation of parasite development. However, the combined blocking activity of alpha-AgAPN1 IgG and an unrelated inhibitory peptide, SM1, against P. berghei was incomplete. We also found that SM1 can block only P. berghei, whereas alpha-AgAPN1 IgG can block both parasite species significantly. Therefore, we hypothesize that ookinetes can evade inhibition by two potent transmission-blocking molecules, presumably through the use of other ligands, and that this process further partitions murine from human parasite midgut invasion models. These results advance our understanding of malaria parasite-mosquito host interactions and guide in the design of transmission-blocking vaccines.
Project description:To invade its definitive host, the mosquito, the malaria parasite must cross the midgut peritrophic matrix that is composed of chitin cross-linked by chitin-binding proteins and then develop into an oocyst on the midgut basal lamina. Previous evidence indicates that Plasmodium ookinete-secreted chitinase is important in midgut invasion. The mechanistic role of other ookinete-secreted enzymes in midgut invasion has not been previously examined. De novo mass spectrometry sequencing of a protein obtained by benzamidine affinity column of Plasmodium gallinaceum ookinete axenic culture supernatant demonstrated the presence of an ookinete-secreted plasmepsin, an aspartic protease previously only known to be present in the digestive vacuole of asexual stage malaria parasites. This plasmepsin, the ortholog of Plasmodium falciparum plasmepsin 4, was designated PgPM4. PgPM4 and PgCHT2 (the P. gallinaceum ortholog of P. falciparum chitinase PfCHT1) are both localized on the ookinete apical surface, and both are present in micronemes. Aspartic protease inhibitors (peptidomimetic and natural product), calpain inhibitors, and anti-PgPM4 monoclonal antibodies significantly reduced parasite infectivity for mosquitoes. These results suggest that plasmepsin 4, previously known only to function in the digestive vacuole of asexual blood stage Plasmodium, plays a role in how the ookinete interacts with the mosquito midgut interactions as it becomes an oocyst. These data are the first to delineate a role for an aspartic protease in mediating Plasmodium invasion of the mosquito and demonstrate the potential for plasmepsin 4 as a malaria transmission-blocking vaccine target.
Project description:Pore forming proteins such as those belonging to the membrane attack/perforin (MACPF) family have important functions in many organisms. Of the five MACPF proteins found in Plasmodium parasites, three have functions in cell passage and one in host cell egress. Here we report an analysis of the perforin-like protein 4, PPLP4, in the rodent parasite Plasmodium berghei. We found that the protein is expressed only in the ookinete, the invasive stage of the parasite formed in the mosquito midgut. Transcriptional analysis revealed that expression of the pplp4 gene commences during ookinete development. The protein was detected in retorts and mature ookinetes. Using two antibodies, the protein was found localized in a dotted pattern, and 3-D SIM super-resolution microcopy revealed the protein in the periphery of the cell. Analysis of a C-terminal mCherry fusion of the protein however showed mainly cytoplasmic label. A pplp4 null mutant formed motile ookinetes, but these were unable to invade and traverse the midgut epithelium resulting in severely impaired oocyst formation and no transmission to naïve mice. However, when in vitro cultured ookinetes were injected into the thorax of the mosquito, thus by-passing midgut passage, sporozoites were formed and the mutant parasites were able to infect naïve mice. Taken together, our data show that PPLP4 is required only for ookinete invasion of the mosquito midgut. Thus PPLP4 has a similar role to the previously studied PPLP3 and PPLP5, raising the question why three proteins with MACPF domains are needed for invasion by the ookinete of the mosquito midgut epithelium.
Project description:Stage-specific transcription is a fundamental biological process in the lifecycle of the Plasmodium parasite. Proteins containing the AP2 DNA-binding domain are responsible for stage-specific transcriptional regulation, and belong to the only known family of transcription factors in Plasmodium parasites. A comprehensive identification of their target genes will advance our understanding of the molecular basis of stage-specific parasite development. In this study, we have used ChIP-seq technology to identify the target genes of the ookinete-specific AP2 transcription factor AP2-O. Overall design: Five biologically independent AP2-O(−) and seven biologically independent wild-type ookinete samples were used in the analyses.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>A vaccine that targets multiple developmental stages of malaria parasites would be an effective tool for malaria control and elimination.<h4>Methods</h4>A conserved gene in Plasmodium, the Plasmodium berghei gene (PBANKA_020570) encoding a 51 kDa protein (pb51 gene), was identified through search of the PlasmoDB database using a combination of expression and protein localization criteria. A partial domain of the Pb51 protein was expressed in a prokaryotic expression system (rPb51) and used for immunization in mice. The protein expression profile and localization were studied by Western blot and indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA), respectively. The inhibitory effect of the anti-rPb51 antibodies on parasite proliferation was evaluated in erythrocytes in vivo. The transmission-blocking activity of the immune sera was determined by in vitro ookinete conversion assay and by direct mosquito feeding assay (DFA).<h4>Results</h4>The rPb51 elicited specific antibodies in mice. Western blot confirmed Pb51 expression in schizonts, gametocytes and ookinetes. IFA showed localization of Pb51 on the outer membranes of schizonts, gametocytes, zygotes, retorts, ookinetes and sporozoites of P. berghei. Mice immunized with the rPb51 protein significantly reduced parasite proliferation and gametocyte conversion in vivo. Moreover, the rPb51 antisera also significantly reduced the in vitro ookinete conversion when added into the ookinete culture medium. In DFA, mice immunized with the rPb51 reduced the prevalence of mosquito infection by 21.3% and oocyst density by 54.8%.<h4>Conclusions</h4>In P. berghei, P51 was expressed in both asexual erythrocytic and sexual stages and localized on the surface of these stages with the exception of the ring stage. The anti-rPb51 antibodies inhibited both P. berghei proliferation in mice and transmission of the parasite to mosquitoes.