The ApiAP2 factor PfAP2-HC is an integral component of heterochromatin in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum

iScience. 2021 Apr 16;24(5):102444. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2021.102444. eCollection 2021 May 21.


Malaria parasites undergo a complex life cycle in the human host and the mosquito vector. The ApiAP2 family of DNA-binding proteins plays a dominant role in parasite development and life cycle progression. Most ApiAP2 factors studied to date act as transcription factors regulating stage-specific gene expression. Here, we characterized an ApiAP2 factor in Plasmodium falciparum that we termed PfAP2-HC. We demonstrate that PfAP2-HC specifically binds to heterochromatin throughout the genome. Intriguingly, PfAP2-HC does not bind DNA in vivo and recruitment of PfAP2-HC to heterochromatin is independent of its DNA-binding domain but strictly dependent on heterochromatin protein 1. Furthermore, our results suggest that PfAP2-HC functions neither in the regulation of gene expression nor in heterochromatin formation or maintenance. In summary, our findings reveal PfAP2-HC as a core component of heterochromatin in malaria parasites and identify unexpected properties and substantial functional divergence among the members of the ApiAP2 family of regulatory proteins.

Keywords: Cell Biology; Parasitology.