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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2002 Mar;66(1):21-38; table of contents.

Cytoskeleton of apicomplexan parasites.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Microbiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA. naomi@borcim.wustl.edu


The Apicomplexa are a phylum of diverse obligate intracellular parasites including Plasmodium spp., the cause of malaria; Toxoplasma gondii and Cryptosporidium parvum, opportunistic pathogens of immunocompromised individuals; and Eimeria spp. and Theileria spp., parasites of considerable agricultural importance. These protozoan parasites share distinctive morphological features, cytoskeletal organization, and modes of replication, motility, and invasion. This review summarizes our current understanding of the cytoskeletal elements, the properties of cytoskeletal proteins, and the role of the cytoskeleton in polarity, motility, invasion, and replication. We discuss the unusual properties of actin and myosin in the Apicomplexa, the highly stereotyped microtubule populations in apicomplexans, and a network of recently discovered novel intermediate filament-like elements in these parasites.

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