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Parasitology. 2004 Nov;129(Pt 5):511-24.

The multiple roles of the mitochondrion of the malarial parasite.

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Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok 10330, Thailand.


Mitochondria of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum are morphologically different between the asexual and sexual blood stages (gametocytes). In this paper recent findings of mitochondrial heterogeneity are reviewed based on their ultrastructural characteristics, metabolic activities and the differential expression of their genes in these 2 blood stages of the parasite. The existence of NADH dehydrogenase (complex I), succinate dehydrogenase (complex II), cytochrome c reductase (complex III) and cytochrome c oxidase (complex IV) suggests that the biochemically active electron transport system operates in this parasite. There is also an alternative electron transport branch pathway, including an anaerobic function of complex II. One of the functional roles of the mitochondrion in the parasite is the coordination of pyrimidine biosynthesis, the electron transport system and oxygen utilization via dihydroorotate dehydrogenase and coenzyme Q. Complete sets of genes encoding enzymes of the tricarboxylic acid cycle and the ATP synthase complex are predicted from P. falciparum genomics information. Other metabolic roles of this organelle include membrane potential maintenance, haem and coenzyme Q biosynthesis, and oxidative phosphorylation. Furthermore, the mitochondrion may be a chemotherapeutic target for antimalarial drug development. The antimalarial drug atovaquone targets the mitochondrion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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