• Crystal structures explain functional differences in the two actin depolymerization factors of the malaria parasite.

      Singh, Bishal K; Sattler, Julia M; Chatterjee, Moon; Huttu, Jani; Schüler, Herwig; Kursula, Inari (2011-08-12)
      Apicomplexan parasites, such as the malaria-causing Plasmodium, utilize an actin-based motor for motility and host cell invasion. The actin filaments of these parasites are unusually short, and actin polymerization is under strict control of a small set of regulatory proteins, which are poorly conserved with their mammalian orthologs. Actin depolymerization factors (ADFs) are among the most important actin regulators, affecting the rates of filament turnover in a multifaceted manner. Plasmodium has two ADFs that display low sequence homology with each other and with the higher eukaryotic family members. Here, we show that ADF2, like canonical ADF proteins but unlike ADF1, binds to both globular and filamentous actin, severing filaments and inducing nucleotide exchange on the actin monomer. The crystal structure of Plasmodium ADF1 shows major differences from the ADF consensus, explaining the lack of F-actin binding. Plasmodium ADF2 structurally resembles the canonical members of the ADF/cofilin family.
    • The lasso segment is required for functional dimerization of the Plasmodium formin 1 FH2 domain.

      Ignatev, Alexander; Bhargav, Saligram Prabhakar; Vahokoski, Juha; Kursula, Petri; Kursula, Inari; Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, University of Hamburg, and German Electron Synchrotron (DESY), Hamburg, Germany. (2012)
      Apicomplexan parasites, such as the malaria-causing Plasmodium species, utilize a unique way of locomotion and host cell invasion. This substrate-dependent gliding motility requires rapid cycling of actin between the monomeric state and very short, unbranched filaments. Despite the crucial role of actin polymerization for the survival of the malaria parasite, the majority of Plasmodium cellular actin is present in the monomeric form. Plasmodium lacks most of the canonical actin nucleators, and formins are essentially the only candidates for this function in all Apicomplexa. The malaria parasite has two formins, containing conserved formin homology (FH) 2 and rudimentary FH1 domains. Here, we show that Plasmodium falciparum formin 1 associates with and nucleates both mammalian and Plasmodium actin filaments. Although Plasmodium profilin alone sequesters actin monomers, thus inhibiting polymerization, its monomer-sequestering activity does not compete with the nucleating activity of formin 1 at an equimolar profilin-actin ratio. We have determined solution structures of P. falciparum formin 1 FH2 domain both in the presence and absence of the lasso segment and the FH1 domain, and show that the lasso is required for the assembly of functional dimers.