Pellicle formation in the malaria parasite

J Cell Sci. 2016 Feb 15;129(4):673-80. doi: 10.1242/jcs.181230. Epub 2016 Jan 13.


The intraerythrocytic developmental cycle of Plasmodium falciparum is completed with the release of up to 32 invasive daughter cells, the merozoites, into the blood stream. Before release, the final step of merozoite development is the assembly of the cortical pellicle, a multi-layered membrane structure. This unique apicomplexan feature includes the inner membrane complex (IMC) and the parasite's plasma membrane. A dynamic ring structure, referred to as the basal complex, is part of the IMC and helps to divide organelles and abscises in the maturing daughter cells. Here, we analyze the dynamics of the basal complex of P. falciparum. We report on a novel transmembrane protein of the basal complex termed BTP1, which is specific to the genus Plasmodium. It colocalizes with the known basal complex marker protein MORN1 and shows distinct dynamics as well as localization when compared to other IMC proteins during schizogony. Using a parasite plasma membrane marker cell line, we correlate dynamics of the basal complex with the acquisition of the maternal membrane. We show that plasma membrane invagination and IMC propagation are interlinked during the final steps of cell division.

Keywords: Apicomplexa; Basal complex; Cell division; Inner membrane complex; Malaria; Plasma membrane.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Plasmodium falciparum / physiology
  • Plasmodium falciparum / ultrastructure*
  • Protein Transport
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism
  • Schizonts / physiology
  • Schizonts / ultrastructure*


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Protozoan Proteins