TITLE Maturation and substrate processing topography of the Plasmodium falciparum invasion/egress protease plasmepsin X
AUTHOR Sumit Mukherjee, Suong Nguyen, Eashan Sharma & Daniel E. Goldberg
YEAR 2022
JOURNAL Nature Communications

The malaria parasite Plasmodium invades a host erythrocyte, multiplies within a parasitophorous vacuole (PV) and then ruptures the PV and erythrocyte membranes in a process known as egress. Both egress and invasion are controlled by effector proteins discharged from specialized secretory organelles. The aspartic protease plasmepsin X (PM X) regulates activity for many of these effectors, but it is unclear how PM X accesses its diverse substrates that reside in different organelles. PM X also autoprocesses to generate different isoforms. The function of this processing is not understood. We have mapped the self-cleavage sites and have constructed parasites with cleavage site mutations. Surprisingly, a quadruple mutant that remains full-length retains in vitro activity, is trafficked normally, and supports normal egress, invasion and parasite growth. The N-terminal half of the prodomain stays bound to the catalytic domain even after processing and is required for proper intracellular trafficking of PM X. We find that this enzyme cleaves microneme and exoneme substrates before discharge, while the rhoptry substrates that are dependent on PM X activity are cleaved after exoneme discharge into the PV. The data give insight into the temporal, spatial and biochemical control of this unusual but important aspartic protease.

KEYWORDS Infection, Parasite biology
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