GlmS mediated knock-down of a phospholipase expedite alternate pathway to generate phosphocholine required for phosphatidylcholine synthesis in Plasmodium falciparum

Biochem J. 2021 Sep 30;478(18):3429-3444. doi: 10.1042/BCJ20200549.


Phospholipid synthesis is crucial for membrane proliferation in malaria parasites during the entire cycle in the host cell. The major phospholipid of parasite membranes, phosphatidylcholine (PC), is mainly synthesized through the Kennedy pathway. The phosphocholine required for this synthetic pathway is generated by phosphorylation of choline derived from the catabolism of the lyso-phosphatidylcholine (LPC) scavenged from the host milieu. Here we have characterized a Plasmodium falciparum lysophospholipase (PfLPL20) which showed enzymatic activity on LPC substrate to generate choline. Using GFP- targeting approach, PfLPL20 was localized in vesicular structures associated with the neutral lipid storage bodies present juxtaposed to the food-vacuole. The C-terminal tagged glmS mediated inducible knock-down of PfLPL20 caused transient hindrance in the parasite development, however, the parasites were able to multiply efficiently, suggesting that PfLPL20 is not essential for the parasite. However, in PfLPL20 depleted parasites, transcript levels of enzyme of SDPM pathway (Serine Decarboxylase-Phosphoethanolamine Methyltransferase) were altered along with up-regulation of phosphocholine and SAM levels; these results show up-regulation of alternate pathway to generate the phosphocholine required for PC synthesis through the Kennedy pathway. Our study highlights the presence of alternate pathways for lipid homeostasis/membrane-biogenesis in the parasite; these data could be useful to design future therapeutic approaches targeting phospholipid metabolism in the parasite.

Keywords: lipid-homeostasis; malaria; phospholipase; phospholipid-synthesis; plasmodium falciparum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carboxy-Lyases / genetics
  • Carboxy-Lyases / metabolism
  • Choline / metabolism
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism*
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Homeostasis / genetics
  • Humans
  • Life Cycle Stages / genetics
  • Lipid Metabolism / genetics
  • Lysophosphatidylcholines / metabolism
  • Lysophospholipase / deficiency
  • Lysophospholipase / genetics*
  • Methyltransferases / genetics
  • Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylcholines / biosynthesis*
  • Phosphorylcholine / metabolism*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / growth & development
  • Plasmodium falciparum / metabolism
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics*
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism
  • S-Adenosylmethionine / metabolism
  • Serine / metabolism


  • Lysophosphatidylcholines
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • Phosphorylcholine
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Serine
  • S-Adenosylmethionine
  • Methyltransferases
  • phosphoethanolamine methyltransferase
  • Lysophospholipase
  • Carboxy-Lyases
  • Choline