Immunophilin-protein interactions in Plasmodium falciparum

Parasitology. 2015 Sep;142(11):1404-14. doi: 10.1017/S0031182015000803. Epub 2015 Jul 9.


Immunophilins comprise two protein families, cyclophilins (CYPs) and FK506-binding proteins (FKBPs), and are the major receptors for the immunosuppressive drugs cyclosporin A (CsA) and FK506 (tacrolimus), respectively. Most eukaryotic species have at least one immunophilin and some of them have been associated with pathogenesis of infectious or parasitic diseases or the action of antiparasitic drugs. The human malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum has 13 immunophilin or immunophilin-like genes but the functions of their products are unknown. We set out to identify the parasite proteins that interact with the major CYPs, PfCYP19A and PfCYP19B, and the FKBP, PfFKBP35, using a combination of co-immunoprecipitation and yeast two-hybrid screening. We identified a cohort of putative interacting partners and further investigation of some of these revealed potentially novel roles in parasite biology. We demonstrated that (i) P. falciparum CYPs interacted with the heat shock protein 70, (ii) treatment of parasites with CYP ligands disrupted transport of the rhoptry-associated protein 1, and (iii) PfFKBP35 interacted with parasite histones in a way that might modulate gene expression. These findings begin to elucidate the functions of immunophilins in malaria. Furthermore, the known antimalarial effects of CsA, FK506 and non-immunosuppressive derivatives of these immunophilin ligands could be mediated through these partner proteins.

Keywords: FK506; FK506-binding protein; Hsp70; Malaria; cyclophilin; cyclosporin A; histone; immunophilin; protein–protein interaction; rhoptry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Protozoan / immunology
  • Antimalarials / pharmacology
  • Cyclophilins / genetics
  • Cyclophilins / metabolism
  • Cyclosporine / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunophilins / genetics
  • Immunophilins / metabolism*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics
  • Plasmodium falciparum / immunology*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / metabolism
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism
  • Rabbits
  • Tacrolimus / metabolism*
  • Tacrolimus Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Tacrolimus Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Two-Hybrid System Techniques


  • Antibodies, Protozoan
  • Antimalarials
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • Cyclosporine
  • Cyclophilins
  • Tacrolimus Binding Proteins
  • Immunophilins
  • Tacrolimus