Independent roles of apical membrane antigen 1 and rhoptry neck proteins during host cell invasion by apicomplexa

Cell Host Microbe. 2011 Dec 15;10(6):591-602. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2011.10.012.


During invasion, apicomplexan parasites form an intimate circumferential contact with the host cell, the tight junction (TJ), through which they actively glide. The TJ, which links the parasite motor to the host cell cytoskeleton, is thought to be composed of interacting apical membrane antigen 1 (AMA1) and rhoptry neck (RON) proteins. Here we find that, in Plasmodium berghei, while both AMA1 and RON4 are important for merozoite invasion of erythrocytes, only RON4 is required for sporozoite invasion of hepatocytes, indicating that RON4 acts independently of AMA1 in the sporozoite. Further, in the Toxoplasma gondii tachyzoite, AMA1 is dispensable for normal RON4 ring and functional TJ assembly but enhances tachyzoite apposition to the cell and internalization frequency. We propose that while the RON proteins act at the TJ, AMA1 mainly functions on the zoite surface to permit correct attachment to the cell, which may facilitate invasion depending on the zoite-cell combination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anopheles
  • Antigens, Protozoan / genetics
  • Antigens, Protozoan / metabolism*
  • Cell Line
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology
  • Hepatocytes / parasitology
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Malaria / parasitology*
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Plasmodium berghei / genetics
  • Plasmodium berghei / growth & development
  • Plasmodium berghei / metabolism*
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism*
  • Sporozoites / metabolism
  • Toxoplasma / genetics
  • Toxoplasma / metabolism*


  • Antigens, Protozoan
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • apical membrane antigen I, Plasmodium