The role of palmitoylation for protein recruitment to the inner membrane complex of the malaria parasite

J Biol Chem. 2015 Jan 16;290(3):1712-28. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M114.598094. Epub 2014 Nov 25.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / chemistry
  • Acyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Biotin / chemistry
  • Catalysis
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Malaria / parasitology
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Phylogeny
  • Plasmodium falciparum / metabolism*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Protein Transport
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism*


  • Actins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Biotin
  • Acyltransferases