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The homologous recombination (HR) pathway has been implicated as the predominant mechanism for the repair of chromosomal DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) of the malarial parasite. Although the extrachromosomal mitochondrial genome of this parasite experiences a greater number of DSBs due to its close proximity to the electron transport chain, nothing is known about the proteins involved in the repair of the mitochondrial genome. We investigated the involvement of nucleus-encoded HR proteins in the repair of the mitochondrial genome, as this genome does not code for any DNA repair proteins. Here, we provide evidence that the nucleus-encoded "recombinosome" of the parasite is also involved in mitochondrial genome repair. First, two crucial HR proteins, namely, Plasmodium falciparum Rad51 (PfRad51) and P. falciparum Bloom helicase (PfBlm) are located in the mitochondria. They are recruited to the mitochondrial genome at the schizont stage, a stage that is prone to DSBs due to exposure to various endogenous and physiologic DNA-damaging agents. Second, the recruitment of these two proteins to the damaged mitochondrial genome coincides with the DNA repair kinetics. Moreover, both the proteins exit the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) once the genome is repaired. Most importantly, the specific chemical inhibitors of PfRad51 and PfBlm block the repair of UV-induced DSBs of the mitochondrial genome. Additionally, overexpression of these two proteins resulted in a kinetically faster repair. Given the essentiality of the mitochondrial genome, blocking its repair by inhibiting the HR pathway could offer a novel strategy for curbing malaria. IMPORTANCE The impact of malaria on global public health and the world economy continues to surge despite decades of vaccine research and drug development efforts. An alarming rise in resistance toward all the commercially available antimalarial drugs and the lack of an effective malaria vaccine brings us to the urge to identify novel intervention strategies for curbing malaria. Here, we uncover the molecular mechanism behind the repair of the most deleterious form of DNA lesions on the parasitic mitochondrial genome. Given that the single-copy mitochondrion is an indispensable organelle of the malaria parasite, we propose that targeting the mitochondrial DNA repair pathways should be exploited as a potential malaria control strategy. The establishment of the parasitic homologous recombination machinery as the predominant repair mechanism of the mitochondrial DNA double-strand breaks underscores the importance of this pathway as a novel druggable target.


Payal Jha, Abhilasha Gahlawat, Sunanda Bhattacharyya, Sandeep Dey, Kota Arun Kumar, Mrinal Kanti Bhattacharyya. Bloom Helicase Along with Recombinase Rad51 Repairs the Mitochondrial Genome of the Malaria Parasite. mSphere. 2021 Dec 22;6(6):e0071821

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PMID: 34730376

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