Apicomplexan parasites exhibit an unusual mechanism of host cell penetration. A central player in this process is the protein apical membrane antigen 1 (AMA1). Although essential for invasion, the precise functional roles AMA1 plays have been unclear. Several recent studies have provided important functional insight into its role within the multiprotein complex that comprises the moving junction (MJ). Initially formed at the apical tip of the invading parasite, the MJ represents a ring-like region of contact between the surfaces of the invading parasite and the host cell as the invaginated host plasma membrane is forced inward by the penetrating parasite. This review discusses these and other recent insights into AMA1 with particular emphasis on studies conducted in Plasmodium and Toxoplasma.
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