An unusual ERAD-like complex is targeted to the apicoplast of Plasmodium falciparum

Eukaryot Cell. 2009 Aug;8(8):1134-45. doi: 10.1128/EC.00083-09. Epub 2009 Jun 5.


Many apicomplexan parasites, including Plasmodium falciparum, harbor a so-called apicoplast, a complex plastid of red algal origin which was gained by a secondary endosymbiotic event. The exact molecular mechanisms directing the transport of nuclear-encoded proteins to the apicoplast of P. falciparum are not well understood. Recently, in silico analyses revealed a second copy of proteins homologous to components of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-associated protein degradation (ERAD) system in organisms with secondary plastids, including the malaria parasite P. falciparum. These proteins are predicted to be endowed with an apicoplast targeting signal and are suggested to play a role in the transport of nuclear-encoded proteins to the apicoplast. Here, we have studied components of this ERAD-derived putative preprotein translocon complex in malaria parasites. Using transfection technology coupled with fluorescence imaging techniques we can demonstrate that the N terminus of several ERAD-derived components targets green fluorescent protein to the apicoplast. Furthermore, we confirm that full-length PfsDer1-1 and PfsUba1 (homologues of yeast ERAD components) localize to the apicoplast, where PfsDer1-1 tightly associates with membranes. Conversely, PfhDer1-1 (a host-specific copy of the Der1-1 protein) localizes to the ER. Our data suggest that ERAD components have been "rewired" to provide a conduit for protein transport to the apicoplast. Our results are discussed in relation to the nature of the apicoplast protein transport machinery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / chemistry
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / genetics
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plasmodium falciparum / chemistry
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics
  • Plasmodium falciparum / metabolism*
  • Plastids / chemistry
  • Plastids / genetics
  • Plastids / metabolism*
  • Protein Transport
  • Protozoan Proteins / chemistry
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Protozoan Proteins