Epistasis studies reveal redundancy among calcium-dependent protein kinases in motility and invasion of malaria parasites

Nat Commun. 2018 Oct 12;9(1):4248. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-06733-w.


In malaria parasites, evolution of parasitism has been linked to functional optimisation. Despite this optimisation, most members of a calcium-dependent protein kinase (CDPK) family show genetic redundancy during erythrocytic proliferation. To identify relationships between phospho-signalling pathways, we here screen 294 genetic interactions among protein kinases in Plasmodium berghei. This reveals a synthetic negative interaction between a hypomorphic allele of the protein kinase G (PKG) and CDPK4 to control erythrocyte invasion which is conserved in P. falciparum. CDPK4 becomes critical when PKG-dependent calcium signals are attenuated to phosphorylate proteins important for the stability of the inner membrane complex, which serves as an anchor for the acto-myosin motor required for motility and invasion. Finally, we show that multiple kinases functionally complement CDPK4 during erythrocytic proliferation and transmission to the mosquito. This study reveals how CDPKs are wired within a stage-transcending signalling network to control motility and host cell invasion in malaria parasites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cyclic GMP-Dependent Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Epistasis, Genetic / genetics*
  • Female
  • Malaria, Falciparum / parasitology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Plasmodium berghei / metabolism*
  • Plasmodium berghei / pathogenicity*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / metabolism*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / pathogenicity*
  • Protein Kinases / genetics
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism*


  • Protozoan Proteins
  • Protein Kinases
  • calcium-dependent protein kinase
  • Cyclic GMP-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • Calcium