Targeting of a Transporter to the Outer Apicoplast Membrane in the Human Malaria Parasite Plasmodium falciparum

PLoS One. 2016 Jul 21;11(7):e0159603. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0159603. eCollection 2016.


Apicoplasts are vestigial plastids in apicomplexan parasites like Plasmodium, the causative agent of malaria. Apicomplexan parasites are dependant on their apicoplasts for synthesis of various molecules that they are unable to scavenge in sufficient quantity from their host, which makes apicoplasts attractive drug targets. Proteins known as plastid phosphate translocators (pPTs) are embedded in the outer apicoplast membrane and are responsible for the import of carbon, energy and reducing power to drive anabolic synthesis in the organelle. We investigated how a pPT is targeted into the outer apicoplast membrane of the human malaria parasite P. falciparum. We showed that a transmembrane domain is likely to act as a recessed signal anchor to direct the protein into the endomembrane system, and that a tyrosine in the cytosolic N-terminus of the protein is essential for targeting, but one or more, as yet unidentified, factors are also essential to direct the protein into the outer apicoplast membrane.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apicoplasts / metabolism*
  • Base Sequence
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Codon, Terminator / genetics
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Falciparum / parasitology*
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Molecular Weight
  • Parasites / metabolism*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / metabolism*
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism*
  • Transfection


  • Codon, Terminator
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Protozoan Proteins

Grant support

Funded by (GIM, CDG, LL, CPS) - National Health and Medical Research Council (AU) (grant number 637406), (GIM, CDG, LL, CPS) - Australian Research Council (grant number DP130103236), (CPS) - Melbourne Research Scholarship. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.