Vital role for the Plasmodium actin capping protein (CP) beta-subunit in motility of malaria sporozoites

Mol Microbiol. 2009 Dec;74(6):1356-67. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2009.06828.x. Epub 2009 Aug 4.


Summary Successful malaria transmission from the mosquito vector to the mammalian host depends crucially on active sporozoite motility. Sporozoite locomotion and host cell invasion are driven by the parasite's own actin/myosin motor. A unique feature of this motor machinery is the presence of very short subpellicular actin filaments. Therefore, F-actin stabilizing proteins likely play a central role in parasite locomotion. Here, we investigated the role of the Plasmodium berghei actin capping protein (PbCP), an orthologue of the heterodimeric regulator of filament barbed end growth, by reverse genetics. Parasites containing a deletion of the CP beta-subunit developed normally during the pathogenic erythrocytic cycle. However, due to reduced ookinete motility, mutant parasites form fewer oocysts and sporozoites in the Anopheles vector. These sporozoites display a vital deficiency in forward gliding motility and fail to colonize the mosquito salivary glands, resulting in complete attenuation of life cycle progression. Together, our results show that the CP beta-subunit exerts an essential role in the insect vector before malaria transmission to the mammalian host. The vital role is restricted to fast locomotion, as displayed by Plasmodium sporozoites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actin Capping Proteins / genetics
  • Actin Capping Proteins / physiology*
  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animal Structures / parasitology
  • Animals
  • Anopheles / parasitology*
  • Gene Deletion
  • Locomotion*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Plasmodium berghei / physiology*
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Protein Subunits / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins / physiology*
  • Salivary Glands / parasitology
  • Sporozoites / physiology*


  • Actin Capping Proteins
  • Actins
  • Protein Subunits
  • Protozoan Proteins