Apicomplexa possess a complex pellicle that is composed of a plasma membrane and a closely apposed inner membrane complex (IMC) that serves as a support for the actin-myosin motor required for motility and host cell invasion. The IMC consists of longitudinal plates of flattened vesicles, fused together and lined on the cytoplasmic side by a subpellicular network of intermediate filament-like proteins. The spatial organization of the IMC has been well described by electron microscopy, but its composition and molecular organization is largely unknown. Here, we identify a novel protein of the IMC cytoskeletal network in Toxoplasma gondii, called TgSIP, and conserved among apicomplexan parasites. To finely pinpoint the localization of TgSIP, we used structured illumination super-resolution microscopy and revealed that it likely decorates the transverse sutures of the plates and the basal end of the IMC. This suggests that TgSIP might contribute to the organization or physical connection among the different components of the IMC. We generated a T.gondii SIP deletion mutant and showed that parasites lacking TgSIP are significantly shorter than wild-type parasites and show defects in gliding motility, invasion and reduced infectivity in mice.
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.