Rhoptry neck protein 11 has crucial roles during malaria parasite sporozoite invasion of salivary glands and hepatocytes

Int J Parasitol. 2019 Aug;49(9):725-735. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2019.05.001. Epub 2019 Jun 25.


The malaria parasite sporozoite sequentially invades mosquito salivary glands and mammalian hepatocytes; and is the Plasmodium lifecycle infective form mediating parasite transmission by the mosquito vector. The identification of several sporozoite-specific secretory proteins involved in invasion has revealed that sporozoite motility and specific recognition of target cells are crucial for transmission. It has also been demonstrated that some components of the invasion machinery are conserved between erythrocytic asexual and transmission stage parasites. The application of a sporozoite stage-specific gene knockdown system in the rodent malaria parasite, Plasmodium berghei, enables us to investigate the roles of such proteins previously intractable to study due to their essentiality for asexual intraerythrocytic stage development, the stage at which transgenic parasites are derived. Here, we focused on the rhoptry neck protein 11 (RON11) that contains multiple transmembrane domains and putative calcium-binding EF-hand domains. PbRON11 is localised to rhoptry organelles in both merozoites and sporozoites. To repress PbRON11 expression exclusively in sporozoites, we produced transgenic parasites using a promoter-swapping strategy. PbRON11-repressed sporozoites showed significant reduction in attachment and motility in vitro, and consequently failed to efficiently invade salivary glands. PbRON11 was also determined to be essential for sporozoite infection of the liver, the first step during transmission to the vertebrate host. RON11 is demonstrated to be crucial for sporozoite invasion of both target host cells - mosquito salivary glands and mammalian hepatocytes - via involvement in sporozoite motility.

Keywords: Conditional knockdown; Gliding motility; Plasmodium; Rhoptry; Sporozoite.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anopheles / parasitology*
  • Blotting, Southern
  • DNA, Protozoan / chemistry
  • DNA, Protozoan / isolation & purification
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology
  • Female
  • Hepatocytes / parasitology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Plasmodium berghei / physiology*
  • Protozoan Proteins / immunology
  • Protozoan Proteins / physiology*
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Salivary Glands / parasitology
  • Sporozoites / physiology


  • DNA, Protozoan
  • Protozoan Proteins