To survive and persist within its human host, the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum utilizes a battery of lineage-specific innovations to invade and multiply in human erythrocytes. With central roles in invasion and cytokinesis, the inner membrane complex, a Golgi-derived double membrane structure underlying the plasma membrane of the parasite, represents a unique and unifying structure characteristic to all organisms belonging to a large phylogenetic group called Alveolata. More than 30 structurally and phylogenetically distinct proteins are embedded in the IMC, where a portion of these proteins displays N-terminal acylation motifs. Although N-terminal myristoylation is catalyzed co-translationally within the cytoplasm of the parasite, palmitoylation takes place at membranes and is mediated by palmitoyl acyltransferases (PATs). Here, we identify a PAT (PfDHHC1) that is exclusively localized to the IMC. Systematic phylogenetic analysis of the alveolate PAT family reveals PfDHHC1 to be a member of a highly conserved, apicomplexan-specific clade of PATs. We show that during schizogony this enzyme has an identical distribution like two dual-acylated, IMC-localized proteins (PfISP1 and PfISP3). We used these proteins to probe into specific sequence requirements for IMC-specific membrane recruitment and their interaction with differentially localized PATs of the parasite.
Keywords: Inner Membrane Complex; Malaria; Membrane Trafficking; Palmitoyl Acyltransferase; Phylogenetics; Plasmodium; Protein Acylation.
© 2015 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.