The genome of the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, contains a myosin gene sequence, which bears a close homology to one of the myosin genes found in another apicomplexan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. A polyclonal antibody was generated against an expressed polypeptide of molecular mass 27,000, based on part of the deduced sequence of this myosin. The antibody reacted with the cognate antigen and with a component of the total parasite protein on immunoblots, but not with vertebrate striated or smooth muscle myosins. It did, however, recognise two components in the cellular protein of Toxoplasma gondii. The antibody was used to investigate stage-specificity of expression of the myosin (here designated Pf-myo1) in P. falciparum. The results showed that the protein is synthesised in mature schizonts and is present in merozoites, but vanishes after the parasite enters the red cell. Pf-myo1 was found to be largely, though not entirely, associated with the particulate parasite cell fraction and is thus presumably mainly membrane bound. It was not solubilised by media that would be expected to dissociate actomyosin or myosin filaments, or by non-ionic detergent. Immunofluorescence revealed that in the merozoite and mature schizont Pf-myo1 is predominantly located around the periphery of the cell. Immuno-gold electron microscopy also showed the presence of the myosin around almost the entire parasite periphery, and especially in the region surrounding the apical prominence. Labelling was concentrated under the plasma membrane but was not seen in the apical prominence itself. This suggests that Pf-myo1 is associated with the plasma membrane or with the outer membrane of the subplasmalemmal cisterna, which forms a lining to the plasma membrane, with a gap at the apical prominence. The results lead to a conjectural model of the invasion mechanism.

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