Roles and Cellular Localization of GBP2 and NAB2 During the Blood Stage of Malaria Parasites

Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2021 Sep 15:11:737457. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2021.737457. eCollection 2021.


The quality control and export of mRNA by RNA-binding proteins are necessary for the survival of malaria parasites, which have complex life cycles. Nuclear poly(A) binding protein 2 (NAB2), THO complex subunit 4 (THO4), nucleolar protein 3 (NPL3), G-strand binding protein 2 (GBP2) and serine/arginine-rich splicing factor 1 (SR1) are involved in nuclear mRNA export in malaria parasites. However, their roles in asexual and sexual development, and in cellular localization, are not fully understood. In this study using the rodent malaria parasite, Plasmodium berghei, we found that NAB2 and SR1, but not THO4, NPL3 or GBP2, played essential roles in the asexual development of malaria parasites. By contrast, GBP2 but not NPL3 was involved in male and female gametocyte production. THO4 was involved in female gametocyte production, but had a lower impact than GBP2. In this study, we focused on GBP2 and NAB2, which play important roles in the sexual and asexual development of malaria parasites, respectively, and examined their cellular localization. GBP2 localized to both the nucleus and cytoplasm of malaria parasites. Using immunoprecipitation coupled to mass spectrometry (IP-MS), GBP2 interacted with the proteins ALBA4, DOZI, and CITH, which play roles in translational repression. IP-MS also revealed that phosphorylated adapter RNA export protein (PHAX) domain-containing protein, an adaptor protein for exportin-1, also interacted with GBP2, implying that mRNA export occurs via the PHAX domain-containing protein pathway in malaria parasites. Live-cell fluorescence imaging revealed that NAB2 localized at the nuclear periphery. Moreover, IP-MS indicated that NAB2 interacted with transportin. RNA immunoprecipitation coupled to RNA sequencing revealed that NAB2 bound directly to 143 mRNAs, including those encoding 40S and 60S ribosomal proteins. Our findings imply that malaria parasites use an evolutionarily ancient mechanism conserved throughout eukaryotic evolution.

Keywords: GBP2; NAB2; RNA-binding protein; export; malaria; quality control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Malaria*
  • Male
  • Nucleocytoplasmic Transport Proteins
  • Parasites* / metabolism
  • RNA-Binding Proteins


  • Nucleocytoplasmic Transport Proteins
  • RNA-Binding Proteins