Localization of organellar proteins in Plasmodium falciparum using a novel set of transfection vectors and a new immunofluorescence fixation method

Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2004 Sep;137(1):13-21. doi: 10.1016/j.molbiopara.2004.05.009.


The apicoplast and mitochondrion of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum are important intracellular organelles and targets of several anti-malarial drugs. In recent years, our group and others have begun to piece together the metabolic pathways of these organelles, with a view to understanding their functions and identifying further anti-malarial targets. This has involved localization of putative organellar proteins using fluorescent reporter proteins such as green fluorescent protein (GFP). A major limitation to such an approach is the difficulties associated with using existing plasmids to genetically modify P. falciparum. In this paper, we present a novel series of P. falciparum transfection vectors based around the Gateway recombinatorial cloning system. Our system makes it considerably easier to construct fluorescent reporter fusion proteins, as well as allowing the use of two selectable markers. Using this approach, we localize proteins involved in isoprenoid biosynthesis and the posttranslational processing of apicoplast-encoded proteins to the apicoplast, and a protein putatively involved in the citric acid cycle to the mitochondrion. To confirm the localization of these proteins, we have developed a new immunofluorescence assay (IFA) protocol using antibodies specific to the apicoplast and mitochondrion. In comparison with published IFA methods, we find that ours maintains considerably better structural preservation, while still allowing sufficient antibody binding as well as preserving reporter protein fluorescence. In summary, we present two important new tools that have enabled us to characterize some of the functions of the apicoplast and mitochondrion, and which will be of use to the wider malaria research community in elucidating the localization of other P. falciparum proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Artificial Gene Fusion
  • Citric Acid Cycle
  • Cloning, Molecular / methods
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique / methods*
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Genetic Vectors*
  • Mitochondria / chemistry*
  • Organelles / chemistry*
  • Organelles / enzymology
  • Plasmodium falciparum / chemistry*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / enzymology
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Protein Transport
  • Protozoan Proteins / analysis*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Terpenes / metabolism
  • Transfection


  • Protozoan Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Terpenes