A Plasmodium sporozoite protein with a membrane attack complex domain is required for breaching the liver sinusoidal cell layer prior to hepatocyte infection

Cell Microbiol. 2005 Feb;7(2):199-208. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-5822.2004.00447.x.


Plasmodium sporozoites are injected into the mammalian host during mosquito blood feeding and carried by the blood stream to the liver, where they infect hepatocytes and develop into erythrocyte-invasive forms. To reach the hepatocytes, sporozoites must cross the liver sinusoidal cell layer, which separates the hepatocytes from the circulatory system. Little is known about the molecular mechanisms by which sporozoites breach this cellular barrier. Here we report that a protein with a membrane attack complex/perforin (MACPF)-related domain is involved in this step. This molecule is specifically expressed in liver-infective sporozoites and localized in micronemes, organelles engaged in host cell invasion. Gene disruption experiments revealed that this protein is essential for the membrane-wounding activity of the sporozoite and is involved in its traversal of the sinusoidal cell layer prior to hepatocyte-infection. Disruptants failed to leave the circulation, and most of them were eliminated from the blood by liver perfusion. Our results suggest that rupture of the host plasma membrane by the pore-forming activity of this molecule is essential for cell passage of the sporozoite. This report is the first to demonstrate an important role of a MACPF-related protein in host cell invasion by a pathogenic microorganism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / parasitology
  • Complement Membrane Attack Complex / chemistry*
  • Expressed Sequence Tags
  • Gene Targeting
  • Hepatocytes / parasitology*
  • Humans
  • Kupffer Cells / parasitology
  • Liver / parasitology*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / physiology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Perforin
  • Plasmodium berghei / genetics
  • Plasmodium berghei / physiology*
  • Pore Forming Cytotoxic Proteins
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary / physiology
  • Protozoan Proteins / chemistry
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Complement Membrane Attack Complex
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Pore Forming Cytotoxic Proteins
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • spect2 protein, Plasmodium berghei
  • Perforin

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AB182656