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Mol Microbiol. 2005 Jul;57(2):405-19.

Development of the endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondrion and apicoplast during the asexual life cycle of Plasmodium falciparum.

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


Plasmodium parasites are unicellular eukaryotes that undergo a series of remarkable morphological transformations during the course of a multistage life cycle spanning two hosts (mosquito and human). Relatively little is known about the dynamics of cellular organelles throughout the course of these transformations. Here we describe the morphology of three organelles (endoplasmic reticulum, apicoplast and mitochondrion) through the human blood stages of the parasite life cycle using fluorescent reporter proteins fused to organelle targeting sequences. The endoplasmic reticulum begins as a simple crescent-shaped organelle that develops into a perinuclear ring with two small protrusions, followed by transformation into an extensive reticulated network as the parasite enlarges. Similarly, the apicoplast and the mitochondrion grow from single, small, discrete organelles into highly branched structures in later-stage parasites. These branched structures undergo an ordered fission - apicoplast followed by mitochondrion - to create multiple daughter organelles that are apparently linked as pairs for packaging into daughter cells. This is the first in-depth examination of intracellular organelles in live parasites during the asexual life cycle of this important human pathogen.

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