An essential contractile ring protein controls cell division in Plasmodium falciparum

Nat Commun. 2019 May 16;10(1):2181. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-10214-z.


During the blood stage of human malaria, Plasmodium falciparum parasites divide by schizogony-a process wherein components for several daughter cells are produced within a common cytoplasm and then segmentation, a synchronized cytokinesis, produces individual invasive daughters. The basal complex is hypothesized to be required for segmentation, acting as a contractile ring to establish daughter cell boundaries. Here we identify an essential component of the basal complex which we name PfCINCH. Using three-dimensional reconstructions of parasites at electron microscopy resolution, we show that while parasite organelles form and divide normally, PfCINCH-deficient parasites develop inviable conjoined daughters that contain components for multiple cells. Through biochemical evaluation of the PfCINCH-containing complex, we discover multiple previously undescribed basal complex proteins. Therefore, this work provides genetic evidence that the basal complex is required for precise segmentation and lays the groundwork for a mechanistic understanding of how the parasite contractile ring drives cell division.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Division / physiology*
  • Contractile Proteins / physiology*
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology
  • Intravital Microscopy / methods
  • Luminescent Proteins / chemistry
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Plasmodium falciparum / physiology*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / ultrastructure
  • Protozoan Proteins / physiology*
  • Red Fluorescent Protein
  • Schizonts / physiology
  • Time-Lapse Imaging


  • Contractile Proteins
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Protozoan Proteins