The apicomplexan inner membrane complex

Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2013 Jun 1;18(3):982-92. doi: 10.2741/4157.


Dinoflagellates, apicomplexans and ciliates are members of the monophyletic supergroup of Alveolata. The protists of this phylogenetic cluster have adapted to various ecological niches and lifestyles. Dinoflagellates and cilates can be found in any aquatic environment, whereas the phylum Apicomplexa solely comprises intracellular parasites. Despite their diversity all alveolates are united by the presence of membranous vesicles, so called alveoli, located beneath the plasma membrane. In addition to strengthening the cytoskeleton, these vesicles appear to possess taxon-specific functionality. In dinoflagellates and ciliates the alveoli predominantly play a structural role and can function as calcium stores. However, for the Apicomplexa, the alveolar vesicles -here jointly called the inner membrane complex (IMC)- are additionally involved in invasion of the host cell and are important scaffold elements during cytokinesis. Recent studies shed light on the architecture of the apicomplexan IMC and the number and diversity of its constituent proteins. This plethora of proteins and their varying evolutionary origin underlines the versatility of the IMC as a result of the adaption to a parasitic lifestyle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apicomplexa / physiology*
  • Intracellular Membranes / physiology*
  • Protozoan Proteins / physiology


  • Protozoan Proteins

Grant support