A malaria parasite phospholipid flippase safeguards midgut traversal of ookinetes for mosquito transmission

Sci Adv. 2021 Jul 23;7(30):eabf6015. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abf6015. Print 2021 Jul.


Mosquito midgut epithelium traversal is essential for malaria parasite transmission. Phospholipid flippases are eukaryotic type 4 P-type adenosine triphosphatases (P4-ATPases), which, in association with CDC50, translocate phospholipids across the membrane lipid bilayers. In this study, we investigated the function of a putative P4-ATPase, ATP7, from the rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium yoelii Disruption of ATP7 blocks the parasite infection of mosquitoes. ATP7 is localized on the ookinete plasma membrane. While ATP7-depleted ookinetes are capable of invading the midgut, they are eliminated within the epithelial cells by a process independent from the mosquito complement-like immunity. ATP7 colocalizes and interacts with the flippase cofactor CDC50C. Depletion of CDC50C phenocopies ATP7 deficiency. ATP7-depleted ookinetes fail to uptake phosphatidylcholine across the plasma membrane. Ookinete microinjection into the mosquito hemocoel reverses the ATP7 deficiency phenotype. Our study identifies Plasmodium flippase as a mechanism of parasite survival in the midgut epithelium that is required for mosquito transmission.