Focus on the ringleader: the role of AMA1 in apicomplexan invasion and replication

Trends Parasitol. 2011 Sep;27(9):410-20. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2011 Jun 12.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antigens, Protozoan / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Host-Parasite Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Mammals
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Merozoites / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phosphorylation
  • Plasmodium falciparum / metabolism
  • Plasmodium falciparum / pathogenicity
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism*
  • Toxoplasma / growth & development
  • Toxoplasma / metabolism
  • Toxoplasma / pathogenicity*


  • AMA1 protein, Toxoplasma gondii
  • Antigens, Protozoan
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • apical membrane antigen I, Plasmodium
  • rhoptry neck protein 2, Toxoplasma gondii