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J Biol Chem. 2006 Oct 20;281(42):31517-27. Epub 2006 Aug 29.

Interactions between merozoite surface proteins 1, 6, and 7 of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

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Zentrum fuer Molekulare Biologie der Universitaet Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 282, D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany.


Merozoites of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum expose at their surface a large multiprotein complex, composed of proteolytically processed, noncovalently associated products of at least three genes, msp-1, msp-6, and msp-7. During invasion of erythrocytes, this complex is shed from the surface except for a small glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored portion originating from MSP-1. The proteolytic cleavage separating the C-terminal portion of MSP-1 is required for successful invasion. Little is known about the structure and function of the abundant and essential multipartite complex. Using heterologously produced MSP-1, MSP-6, and MSP-7 in precursor and with the exception of MSP-7 in processed form, we have studied in vitro the complex formation between the different proteins to identify the interaction partners within the complex. Both MSP-6(36) and MSP-7 bind only to MSP-1 subunits that are shed, but although MSP-6(36) contacts just subunit p38, MSP-7 interacts with p83, p30, and p38. The intact C-terminal region of MSP-6 is required for the association with p38 as well as for its multimerization into tetramers. Furthermore, our data suggest that only the processed form and not the precursor form of MSP-1 interacts with MSP-6(36). MSP-6- as well as MSP-7-specific rabbit antibodies inhibit parasite multiplication in vitro as shown previously for antibodies directed against MSP-1. Our findings raise interesting questions with regard to proteolysis-mediated mechanisms of maturation of the MSP-1-MSP-6-MSP-7 complex and to the mode by which antibodies directed against this complex interfere with parasite multiplication.

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