Chaiyawong Nattawat et al.
Plasmodium, the causative agents of malaria, are obligate intracellular organisms. In humans, pathogenesis is caused by the blood stage parasite, which multiplies within erythrocytes, thus erythrocyte invasion is an essential developmental step. Merozoite form parasites released into the blood stream coordinately secrets a panel of proteins from the microneme secretory organelles for gliding motility, establishment of a tight junction with a target naive erythrocyte, and subsequent internalization. A protein identified in Toxoplasma gondii facilitates microneme fusion with the plasma membrane for exocytosis; namely, acylated pleckstrin homology domain-containing protein (APH). To obtain insight into the differential microneme discharge by malaria parasites, in this study we analyzed the consequences of APH deletion in the rodent malaria model, Plasmodium yoelii, using a DiCre-based inducible knockout method. We found that APH deletion resulted in a reduction in parasite asexual growth and erythrocyte invasion, with some parasites retaining the ability to invade and grow without APH. APH deletion impaired the secretion of microneme proteins, MTRAP and AMA1, and upon contact with erythrocytes the secretion of MTRAP, but not AMA1, was observed. APH-deleted merozoites were able to attach to and deform erythrocytes, consistent with the observed MTRAP secretion. Tight junctions were formed, but echinocytosis after merozoite internalization into erythrocytes was significantly reduced, consistent with the observed absence of AMA1 secretion. Together with our observation that APH largely colocalized with MTRAP, but less with AMA1, we propose that APH is directly involved in MTRAP secretion; whereas any role of APH in AMA1 secretion is indirect in Plasmodium.