During its 48-h asexual life cycle within human erythrocytes, Plasmodium falciparum grows to many times its own size and divides to produce 16-32 new parasites. This rapid multiplication requires active synthesis of new membranes and is fueled by phospholipid precursors and fatty acids that are scavenged from the human host. Plasmodium membrane biogenesis relies heavily on the expression of parasite enzymes that incorporate these precursors into phospholipids. However, little is known about the genes involved in membrane biogenesis or where this process takes place within the parasite. Here, we describe the analysis in P. falciparum of the first step of phospholipid biosynthesis that controls acylation of glycerol 3-phosphate (GPAT) at the sn-1 position. We show that this activity is of parasite origin and is specific for glycerol 3-phosphate substrate. We have identified the gene, PfGAT, encoding this activity in P. falciparum and reconstituted its codon composition for optimal expression in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. PfGAT complements the lethality of a yeast double mutant gat1Deltagat2Delta, lacking GPAT activity. Biochemical analysis revealed that PfGatp is a low affinity GPAT enzyme with a high specificity for C16:0 and C16:1 substrates. PfGatp is an integral membrane protein of the endoplasmic reticulum expressed throughout the intraerythrocytic life cycle of the parasite but induced mainly at the trophozoite stage. This study, which describes the first protozoan GPAT gene, reveals an important role for the endoplasmic reticulum in the initial step of Plasmodium membrane biogenesis.