Intrinsic disorder within the erythrocyte binding-like proteins from Plasmodium falciparum

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2014 Dec;1844(12):2306-14. doi: 10.1016/j.bbapap.2014.09.023. Epub 2014 Oct 5.


The ability of the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, to proliferate within the human host depends on its invasion of erythrocytes. Erythrocyte binding-like (EBL) proteins play crucial roles in the attachment of merozoites to human erythrocytes by binding to specific receptors on the cell surface. In this study, we have carried out a bioinformatics analysis of the three EBL proteins EBA-140, EBA-175 and EBA-181 and show that they contain a large amount of intrinsic disorder in particular within the RIII-V domains. The functional role of these domains has so far not been identified, although antibodies raised against these regions were shown to inhibit parasite invasion. Here, we obtain a more complete structural and dynamic view of the EBL proteins by focusing on the biophysical characterization of a smaller construct of the RIII-V regions of EBA-181 (EBA-181945-1097). We show using a number of techniques that EBA-181945-1097 is intrinsically disordered, and we obtain a detailed structural and dynamic characterization of the protein at atomic resolution using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Our results show that EBA-181945-1097 is essentially a statistical coil with the presence of several turn motifs and does not possess transiently populated secondary structures as is common for many intrinsically disordered proteins that fold via specific, pre-formed molecular recognition elements.

Keywords: Chemical shift; Disorder prediction; Erythrocyte binding-like protein; Malaria; Nuclear magnetic resonance; Residual dipolar coupling.