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Parasitol Int. 2009 Mar;58(1):29-35. doi: 10.1016/j.parint.2008.09.005. Epub 2008 Oct 7.

Rhoptry neck protein RON2 forms a complex with microneme protein AMA1 in Plasmodium falciparum merozoites.

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Department of Molecular Parasitology, Ehime University Graduate School of Medicine, Shitsukawa, Toon, Ehime 791-0295, Japan.


Erythrocyte invasion is an essential step in the establishment of host infection by malaria parasites, and is a major target of intervention strategies that attempt to control the disease. Recent proteome analysis of the closely-related apicomplexan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, revealed a panel of novel proteins (RONs) located at the neck portion of the rhoptries. Three of these proteins, RON2, RON4, and RON5 have been shown to form a complex with the microneme protein Apical Membrane Protein 1 (AMA1). This complex, termed the Moving Junction complex, localizes at the interface of the parasite and the host cell during the invasion process. Here we characterized a RON2 ortholog in Plasmodium falciparum. PfRON2 transcription peaked at the mature schizont stage and was expressed at the neck portion of the rhoptry in the merozoite. Co-immunoprecipitation of PfRON2, PfRON4 and PfAMA1 indicated that the complex formation is conserved between T. gondii and P. falciparum, suggesting that co-operative function of the rhoptry and microneme proteins is a common mechanism in apicomplexan parasites during host cell invasion. PfRON2 possesses a region displaying homology with the rhoptry body protein PfRhopH1/Clag, a component of the RhopH complex. However, here we present co-immunoprecipitation studies which suggest that PfRON2 is not a component of the RhopH complex and has an independent role. Nucleotide polymorphism analysis suggested that PfRON2 was under diversifying selective pressure. This evidence suggests that RON2 appears to have a fundamental role in host cell invasion by apicomplexan parasites, and is a potential target for malaria intervention strategies.

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