Systematic genetic analysis of the Plasmodium falciparum MSP7-like family reveals differences in protein expression, location and importance in asexual growth of the blood stage parasite


Proteins located on Plasmodium falciparum merozoites, the invasive form of the parasite's asexual blood stage, are of considerable interest in vaccine research. Merozoite surface protein 7 (MSP7) forms a complex with MSP1 and is encoded by a member of a multigene family located on chromosome 13. The family codes for MSP7 and five MSP7-related proteins (MSRPs). In the present study, we have investigated the expression and the effect of msrp gene deletion at the asexual blood stage. In addition to msp7, msrp2, msrp3, and msrp5 are transcribed, and mRNA was easily detected by hybridization analysis, whereas mRNA for msrp1 and msrp4 could be detected only by reverse transcription (RT)-PCR. Notwithstanding evidence of transcription, antibodies to recombinant MSRPs failed to detect specific proteins, except for antibodies to MSRP2. Sequential proteolytic cleavages of MSRP2 resulted in 28- and 25-kDa forms. However, MSRP2 was absent from merozoites; the 25-kDa MSRP2 protein (MSRP2(25)) was soluble and secreted upon merozoite egress. The msrp genes were deleted by targeted disruption in the 3D7 line, leading to ablation of full-length transcripts. MSRP deletion mutants had no detectable phenotype, with growth and invasion characteristics comparable to those of the parental parasite; only the deletion of MSP7 led to a detectable growth phenotype. Thus, within this family some of the genes are transcribed at a significant level in asexual blood stages, but the corresponding proteins may or may not be detectable. Interactions of the expressed proteins with the merozoite also differ. These results highlight the potential for unexpected differences of protein expression levels within gene families.

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Journal Eukaryotic Cell
Volume 9
Issue number 7
Pages 1064-1074
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