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MBio. 2012 Sep 18;3(5). pii: e00292-12. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00292-12. Print 2012.

Binding of aldolase and glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase to the cytoplasmic tails of Plasmodium falciparum merozoite duffy binding-like and reticulocyte homology ligands.

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  • 1Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, Maryland, USA.


Invasion of erythrocytes by Plasmodium falciparum requires a connection between the cytoplasmic tail of the parasite's ligands for its erythrocyte receptors and the actin-myosin motor of the parasite. For the thromobospondin-related anonymous protein (TRAP) ligand on Plasmodium sporozoites, aldolase forms this connection and requires tryptophan and negatively charged amino acids in the ligand's cytoplasmic tail. Because of the importance of the Duffy binding-like (DBL) and the reticulocyte homology (RH) ligand families in erythrocyte binding and merozoite invasion, we characterized the ability of their cytoplasmic tails to bind aldolase and glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), both of which bind actin. We tested the binding of the cytoplasmic peptides of the two ligand families to aldolase and GAPDH. Only the cytoplasmic peptides of some RH ligands showed strong binding to aldolase, and the binding depended on the presence of an aromatic amino acid (phenylalanine or tyrosine), rather than tryptophan, in the context of negatively charged amino acids. The binding was confirmed by surface plasmon resonance analysis and was found to represent affinity similar to that seen with TRAP. An X-ray crystal structure of aldolase at 2.5 Å in the presence of RH2b peptide suggested that the binding site location was near the TRAP-binding site. GAPDH bound to some of the cytoplasmic tails of certain RH and DBL ligands in an aromatic amino acid-dependent manner. Thus, the connection between Plasmodium merozoite ligands and erythrocyte receptors and the actin motor can be achieved through the activity of either aldolase or GAPDH by mechanisms that do not require tryptophan but, rather, other aromatic amino acids. IMPORTANCE The invasion of the Plasmodium merozoite into erythrocytes is a critical element in malaria pathogenesis. It is important to understand the molecular details of this process, as this machinery can be a target for both vaccine and drug development. In Plasmodium sporozoites and Toxoplasma tachyzoites, invasion involves a glycolytic enzyme aldolase, linking the cytoplasmic tail domains of the parasite ligands to the actin-myosin motor that drives invasion. This binding requires a tryptophan that cannot be replaced by other aromatic residues. Here we show that aldolase binds the cytoplasmic tails of some P. falciparum merozoite erythrocyte-binding ligands but that the binding involves aromatic residues other than tryptophan. The biological relevance of aldolase binding to cytoplasmic tails of parasite ligands in invasion is demonstrated by our observation that RH2b but not RH2a binds to aldolase and, as previously shown, that RH2b but not RH2a is required for P. falciparum invasion of erythrocytes.

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