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Protist. 1999 Oct;150(3):283-95.

The plastid in Plasmodium falciparum asexual blood stages: a three-dimensional ultrastructural analysis.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Guy's, King's College, London, UK.


The plastid in Plasmodium falciparum asexual stages is a tubular structure measuring about 0.5 micron x 0.15 micron in the merozoite, and 1.6 x 0.35 microns in trophozoites. Each parasite contains a single plastid until this organelle replicates in late schizonts. The plastid always adheres to the (single) mitochondrion, along its whole length in merozoites and early rings, but only at one end in later stages. Regions of the plastid are also closely related to the pigment vacuole, nuclear membrane and endoplasmic reticulum. In merozoites the plastid is anchored to a band of 2-3 subpellicular microtubules. Reconstructions show the plastid wall is characteristically three membranes thick, with regions of additional, complex membranes. These include inner and outer membrane complexes. The inner complex in the interior lumen is probably a rolled invagination of the plastid's inner membrane. The outer complex lies between the outer and middle wall membranes. The interior matrix contains ribosome-like granules and a network of fine branched filaments. Merozoites of P. berghei and P. knowlesi possess plastids similar in structure to those of P. falciparum. A model is proposed for the transfer of membrane lipid from the plastid to other organelles in the parasite.

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