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Curr Issues Mol Biol. 2005 Jan;7(1):57-79.

The apicoplast: a review of the derived plastid of apicomplexan parasites.

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  • 1Botany, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada.


The apicoplast is a plastid organelle, homologous to chloroplasts of plants, that is found in apicomplexan parasites such as the causative agents of Malaria Plasmodium spp. It occurs throughout the Apicomplexa and is an ancient feature of this group acquired by the process of endosymbiosis. Like plant chloroplasts, apicoplasts are semi-autonomous with their own genome and expression machinery. In addition, apicoplasts import numerous proteins encoded by nuclear genes. These nuclear genes largely derive from the endosymbiont through a process of intracellular gene relocation. The exact role of a plastid in parasites is uncertain but early clues indicate synthesis of lipids, heme and isoprenoids as possibilities. The various metabolic processes of the apicoplast are potentially excellent targets for drug therapy.

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