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Eukaryotic cell adhesion and migration rely on surface adhesins connecting extracellular ligands to the intracellular actin cytoskeleton. Plasmodium sporozoites are transmitted by mosquitoes and rely on adhesion and gliding motility to colonize the salivary glands and to reach the liver after transmission. During gliding, the essential sporozoite adhesin TRAP engages actin filaments in the cytoplasm of the parasite, while binding ligands on the substrate through its inserted (I) domain. Crystal structures of TRAP from different Plasmodium species reveal the I domain in closed and open conformations. Here, we probe the importance of these two conformational states by generating parasites expressing versions of TRAP with the I domain stabilized in either the open or closed state with disulfide bonds. Strikingly, both mutations impact sporozoite gliding, mosquito salivary gland entry, and transmission. Absence of gliding in sporozoites expressing the open TRAP I domain can be partially rescued by adding a reducing agent. This suggests that dynamic conformational change is required for ligand binding, gliding motility, and organ invasion and hence sporozoite transmission from mosquito to mammal. © 2023 The Authors. Published under the terms of the CC BY NC ND 4.0 license.


Friedrich Braumann, Dennis Klug, Jessica Kehrer, Gaojie Song, Juan Feng, Timothy A Springer, Friedrich Frischknecht. Conformational change of Plasmodium TRAP is essential for sporozoite migration and transmission. EMBO reports. 2023 Jul 05;24(7):e57064

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PMID: 37306042

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