Global analysis of putative phospholipases in Plasmodium falciparum reveals an essential role of the phosphoinositide-specific phospholipase C in parasite maturation

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For its replication within red blood cells, the malaria parasite depends on a highly active and regulated lipid metabolism. Enzymes involved in lipid metabolic processes such as phospholipases are, therefore, potential drug targets. Here, using reverse genetics approaches, we show that only 1 out of the 19 putative phospholipases expressed in asexual blood stages of Plasmodium falciparum is essential for proliferation in vitro, pointing toward a high level of redundancy among members of this enzyme family. Using conditional mislocalization and gene disruption techniques, we show that this essential phosphoinositide-specific phospholipase C (PI-PLC, PF3D7_1013500) has a previously unrecognized essential role during intracellular parasite maturation, long before its previously perceived role in parasite egress and invasion. Subsequent lipidomic analysis suggests that PI-PLC mediates cleavage of phosphatidylinositol bisphosphate (PIP2) in schizont-stage parasites, underlining its critical role in regulating phosphoinositide levels in the parasite. IMPORTANCE The clinical symptoms of malaria arise due to repeated rounds of replication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells (RBCs). Central to this is an intense period of membrane biogenesis. Generation of membranes not only requires de novo synthesis and acquisition but also the degradation of phospholipids, a function that is performed by phospholipases. In this study, we investigate the essentiality of the 19 putative phospholipase enzymes that the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum expresses during its replication within RBCs. We not only show that a high level of functional redundancy exists among these enzymes but, at the same time, also identify an essential role for the phosphoinositide-specific phospholipase C in parasite development and cleavage of the phospholipid phosphatidylinositol bisphosphate.

Journal details

Journal mBio
Volume 14
Issue number 4
Pages e01413-23
Available online
Publication date