An investigation of plasmodium falciparum sortilin in trafficking of invasion proteins of the human malaria parasite

Shunmugan, Serena
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Malaria is arguably one of the most overwhelming infectious diseases throughout the world's existence. The most virulent parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, has a redundancy of invasion proteins, allowing it to switch between different receptors on the host red blood cell. These invasion proteins are stored in the apical organelles, the rhoptries and micronemes, but very little is known about how newly synthesized proteins are transported to these organelles. The hypothesis in this study was that a common protein is involved in trafficking invasion proteins from the trans-Golgi network and PfSORTILIN was investigated as a potential escorter protein. The CCys domain of PfMAEBL, a rhoptry protein, and the prodomain of PfAMA-l, a microneme protein, have been implicated in trafficking to the apical organelles. These domains and the VPS 10 domain of PfSORTILIN were cloned into expression vectors encoding a GST- or Histag. Recombinant proteins were expressed in E. coli and purified by affinity chromatography on glutathione- or Ni-particles. In vitro binding assays were performed, which showed that PfSORTILIN VPS 10 bound to PfMAEBL ccys but not to the PfAMA-1 prodomain, suggesting that PfSORTILIN is a rhoptry protein escorter and is not involved in microneme trafficking. To identify novel binding partners of PfSORTILIN VPS 10, the protein was biopanned against a P. falciparum phage display library. No binding partners were identified, most likely because the library is not schizont-stage specific, which is when PfSORTILIN and invasion proteins are predominantly expressed. The results from this study were integrated with other studies and a trafficking model for PfMAEBL was proposed. This study enhances our knowledge of trafficking pathways and suggests that PfSORTILIN may serve as a common rhoptry protein escorter.