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Elife. 2019 Jul 19;8. pii: e49030. doi: 10.7554/eLife.49030.

Formin-2 drives polymerisation of actin filaments enabling segregation of apicoplasts and cytokinesis in Plasmodium falciparum.

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Wellcome Centre for Integrative Parasitology, Institute of Infection, Immunity & Inflammation, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom.
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Experimental Parasitology, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, Germany.


In addition to its role in erythrocyte invasion, Plasmodium falciparum actin is implicated in endocytosis, cytokinesis and inheritance of the chloroplast-like organelle called the apicoplast. Previously, the inability to visualise filamentous actin (F-actin) dynamics had restricted the characterisation of both F-actin and actin regulatory proteins, a limitation we recently overcame for Toxoplasma (Periz et al, 2017). Here, we have expressed and validated actin-binding chromobodies as F-actin-sensors in Plasmodium falciparum and characterised in-vivo actin dynamics. F-actin could be chemically modulated, and genetically disrupted upon conditionally deleting actin-1. In a comparative approach, we demonstrate that Formin-2, a predicted nucleator of F-actin, is responsible for apicoplast inheritance in both Plasmodium and Toxoplasma, and additionally mediates efficient cytokinesis in Plasmodium. Finally, time-averaged local intensity measurements of F-actin in Toxoplasma conditional mutants revealed molecular determinants of spatiotemporally regulated F-actin flow. Together, our data indicate that Formin-2 is the primary F-actin nucleator during apicomplexan intracellular growth, mediating multiple essential functions.


P. falciparum; Toxoplasma gondii; actin; apicoplast; cell biology; formin; infectious disease; malaria; microbiology; toxoplasmosis

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