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MBio. 2017 Jun 13;8(3). pii: e00605-17. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00605-17.

The Malaria Parasite Cyclin H Homolog PfCyc1 Is Required for Efficient Cytokinesis in Blood-Stage Plasmodium falciparum.

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Division of Infectious Diseases, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Division of Infectious Diseases, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Division of Infectious Diseases, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA


All well-studied eukaryotic cell cycles are driven by cyclins, which activate cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs), and these protein kinase complexes are viable drug targets. The regulatory control of the Plasmodium falciparum cell division cycle remains poorly understood, and the roles of the various CDKs and cyclins remain unclear. The P. falciparum genome contains multiple CDKs, but surprisingly, it does not contain any sequence-identifiable G1-, S-, or M-phase cyclins. We demonstrate that P. falciparum Cyc1 (PfCyc1) complements a G1 cyclin-depleted Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain and confirm that other identified malaria parasite cyclins do not complement this strain. PfCyc1, which has the highest sequence similarity to the conserved cyclin H, cannot complement a temperature-sensitive yeast cyclin H mutant. Coimmunoprecipitation of PfCyc1 from P. falciparum parasites identifies PfMAT1 and PfMRK as specific interaction partners and does not identify PfPK5 or other CDKs. We then generate an endogenous conditional allele of PfCyc1 in blood-stage P. falciparum using a destabilization domain (DD) approach and find that PfCyc1 is essential for blood-stage proliferation. PfCyc1 knockdown does not impede nuclear division, but it prevents proper cytokinesis. Thus, we demonstrate that PfCyc1 has a functional divergence from bioinformatic predictions, suggesting that the malaria parasite cell division cycle has evolved to use evolutionarily conserved proteins in functionally novel ways.IMPORTANCE Human infection by the eukaryotic parasite Plasmodium falciparum causes malaria. Most well-studied eukaryotic cell cycles are driven by cyclins, which activate cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) to promote essential cell division processes. Remarkably, there are no identifiable cyclins that are predicted to control the cell cycle in the malaria parasite genome. Thus, our knowledge regarding the basic mechanisms of the malaria parasite cell cycle remains unsatisfactory. We demonstrate that P. falciparum Cyc1 (PfCyc1), a transcriptional cyclin homolog, complements a cell cycle cyclin-deficient yeast strain but not a transcriptional cyclin-deficient strain. We show that PfCyc1 forms a complex in the parasite with PfMRK and the P. falciparum MAT1 homolog. PfCyc1 is essential and nonredundant in blood-stage P. falciparum PfCyc1 knockdown causes a stage-specific arrest after nuclear division, demonstrating morphologically aberrant cytokinesis. This work demonstrates a conserved PfCyc1/PfMAT1/PfMRK complex in malaria and suggests that it functions as a schizont stage-specific regulator of the P. falciparum life cycle.


Plasmodium falciparum; asexual replication; cell cycle; malaria; schizogony

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