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Int Rev Cytol. 2003;224:57-110.

The apicoplast: a plastid in Plasmodium falciparum and other Apicomplexan parasites.

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Plant Cell Biology Research Centre, School of Botany, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia.


Apicomplexan parasites cause severe diseases such as malaria, toxoplasmosis, and coccidiosis (caused by Plasmodium spp., Toxoplasma, and Eimeria, respectively). These parasites contain a relict plastid-termed "apicoplast"--that originated from the engulfment of an organism of the red algal lineage. The apicoplast is indispensable but its exact role in parasites is unknown. The apicoplast has its own genome and expresses a small number of genes, but the vast majority of the apicoplast proteome is encoded in the nuclear genome. The products of these nuclear genes are posttranslationally targeted to the organelle via the secretory pathway courtesy of a bipartite N-terminal leader sequence. Apicoplasts are nonphotosynthetic but retain other typical plastid functions such as fatty acid, isoprenoid and heme synthesis, and products of these pathways might be exported from the apicoplast for use by the parasite. Apicoplast pathways are essentially prokaryotic and therefore excellent drug targets. Some antibiotics inhibiting these molecular processes are already in chemotherapeutic use, whereas many new drugs will hopefully spring from our growing understanding of this intriguing organelle.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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