Knockout studies reveal an important role of Plasmodium lipoic acid protein ligase A1 for asexual blood stage parasite survival

Margarete Svenja Gunther, Kai Matuschewski, Sylke Muller

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Lipoic acid (LA) is a dithiol-containing cofactor that is essential for the function of alpha-keto acid dehydrogenase complexes. LA acts as a reversible acyl group acceptor and swinging arm during acyl-coenzyme A formation. The cofactor is post-translationally attached to the acyl-transferase subunits of the multienzyme complexes through the action of octanoyl (lipoyl): N-octanoyl (lipoyl) transferase (LipB) or lipoic acid protein ligases (LplA). Remarkably, apicomplexan parasites possess LA biosynthesis as well as scavenging pathways and the two pathways are distributed between mitochondrion and a vestigial organelle, the apicoplast. The apicoplast-specific LipB is dispensable for parasite growth due to functional redundancy of the parasite s lipoic acid/octanoic acid ligases/transferases. In this study, we show that LplA1 plays a pivotal role during the development of the erythrocytic stages of the malaria parasite. Gene disruptions in the human malaria parasite P. falciparum consistently were unsuccessful while in the rodent malaria model parasite P. berghei the LplA1 gene locus was targeted by knock-in and knockout constructs. However, the LplA1((-)) mutant could not be cloned suggesting a critical role of LplA1 for asexual parasite growth in vitro and in vivo. These experimental genetics data suggest that lipoylation during expansion in red blood cells largely occurs through salvage from the host erythrocytes and subsequent ligation of LA to the target proteins of the malaria parasite.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 12
Number of pages12
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5 (Art. No: e5510)
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

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