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EMBO J. 2009 Mar 18;28(6):725-35. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2009.22. Epub 2009 Feb 12.

A multifunctional serine protease primes the malaria parasite for red blood cell invasion.

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Division of Parasitology, National Institute for Medical Research, London, UK.


The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum replicates within an intraerythrocytic parasitophorous vacuole (PV). Rupture of the host cell allows release (egress) of daughter merozoites, which invade fresh erythrocytes. We previously showed that a subtilisin-like protease called PfSUB1 regulates egress by being discharged into the PV in the final stages of merozoite development to proteolytically modify the SERA family of papain-like proteins. Here, we report that PfSUB1 has a further role in 'priming' the merozoite prior to invasion. The major protein complex on the merozoite surface comprises three proteins called merozoite surface protein 1 (MSP1), MSP6 and MSP7. We show that just before egress, all undergo proteolytic maturation by PfSUB1. Inhibition of PfSUB1 activity results in the accumulation of unprocessed MSPs on the merozoite surface, and erythrocyte invasion is significantly reduced. We propose that PfSUB1 is a multifunctional processing protease with an essential role in both egress of the malaria merozoite and remodelling of its surface in preparation for erythrocyte invasion.

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