Plasmodium parasites contain several unique membrane compartments in which prenylated proteins may play important roles in pathogenesis. Protein prenylation has also been proposed as an antimalarial drug target because farnesyltransferase inhibitors cause potent growth inhibition of blood-stage Plasmodium However, the specific prenylated proteins that mediate antimalarial activity have yet to be identified. Given the potential for new parasite biology and elucidating drug mechanism-of-action, we performed a large-scale identification of the prenylated proteome in blood-stage P. falciparum parasites using an alkyne-labeled prenyl analog to specifically enrich parasite prenylated proteins. Twenty high-confidence candidates were identified, including several examples of pathogen-specific prenylation activity. One unique parasite prenylated protein was FYVE-containing coiled-coil protein (FCP), which is only conserved in Plasmodium and related Apicomplexan parasites and localizes to the parasite food vacuole. Targeting of FCP to this parasite-specific compartment was dependent on prenylation of its CaaX motif, as mutation of the prenylation site caused cytosolic mislocalization. We also showed that PfRab5b, which lacks C-terminal cysteines that are the only known site of Rab GTPase modification, is prenylated. Finally, we show that the THQ class of farnesyltransferase inhibitors abolishes FCP prenylation and causes its mislocalization, providing the first demonstration of a specific prenylated protein disrupted by antimalarial farnesyl transferase inhibitors. Altogether, these findings identify prenylated proteins that reveal unique parasite biology and are useful for evaluating prenyltransferase inhibitors for antimalarial drug development.
© 2017 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.