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A variety of post-translational modifications of Plasmodium falciparum proteins, including phosphorylation and ubiquitination, are shown to have key regulatory roles during parasite development. NEDD8 is a ubiquitin-like modifier of cullin-RING E3 ubiquitin ligases, which regulates diverse cellular processes. Although neddylation is conserved in eukaryotes, it is yet to be characterized in Plasmodium and related apicomplexan parasites. We characterized P. falciparum NEDD8 (PfNEDD8) and identified cullins as its physiological substrates. PfNEDD8 is a 76 amino acid residue protein without the C-terminal tail, indicating that it can be readily conjugated. The wild type and mutant (Gly75Ala/Gly76Ala) PfNEDD8 were expressed in P. falciparum. Western blot of wild type PfNEDD8-expressing parasites indicated multiple high molecular weight conjugates, which were absent in the parasites expressing the mutant, indicating conjugation of NEDD8 through Gly76. Immunoprecipitation followed by mass spectrometry of wild type PfNEDD8-expressing parasites identified two putative cullins. Furthermore, we expressed PfNEDD8 in mutant S. cerevisiae strains that lacked endogenous NEDD8 (rub1Δ) or NEDD8 conjugating E2 enzyme (ubc12Δ). The PfNEDD8 immunoprecipitate also contained S. cerevisiae cullin cdc53, further substantiating cullins as physiological substrates of PfNEDD8. Our findings lay ground for investigation of specific roles and drug target potential of neddylation in malaria parasites.


Manish Bhattacharjee, Navin Adhikari, Renu Sudhakar, Zeba Rizvi, Divya Das, R Palanimurugan, Puran Singh Sijwali. Characterization of Plasmodium falciparum NEDD8 and identification of cullins as its substrates. Scientific reports. 2020 Nov 19;10(1):20220

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PMID: 33214620

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