PfCERLI1 is a conserved rhoptry associated protein essential for Plasmodium falciparum merozoite invasion of erythrocytes

Nat Commun. 2020 Mar 16;11(1):1411. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-15127-w.


The disease-causing blood-stage of the Plasmodium falciparum lifecycle begins with invasion of human erythrocytes by merozoites. Many vaccine candidates with key roles in binding to the erythrocyte surface and entry are secreted from the large bulb-like rhoptry organelles at the apical tip of the merozoite. Here we identify an essential role for the conserved protein P. falciparum Cytosolically Exposed Rhoptry Leaflet Interacting protein 1 (PfCERLI1) in rhoptry function. We show that PfCERLI1 localises to the cytosolic face of the rhoptry bulb membrane and knockdown of PfCERLI1 inhibits merozoite invasion. While schizogony and merozoite organelle biogenesis appear normal, biochemical techniques and semi-quantitative super-resolution microscopy show that PfCERLI1 knockdown prevents secretion of key rhoptry antigens that coordinate merozoite invasion. PfCERLI1 is a rhoptry associated protein identified to have a direct role in function of this essential merozoite invasion organelle, which has broader implications for understanding apicomplexan invasion biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Erythrocytes / parasitology*
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Falciparum / parasitology*
  • Merozoites / genetics
  • Merozoites / growth & development
  • Merozoites / metabolism*
  • Organelles / parasitology
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics
  • Plasmodium falciparum / growth & development*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / metabolism
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism*


  • Protozoan Proteins