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Perforin-like proteins (PLPs) play key roles in mechanisms associated with parasitic disease caused by the apicomplexan parasites Plasmodium and Toxoplasma. The T. gondii PLP1 (TgPLP1) mediates tachyzoite egress from cells, while the five Plasmodium PLPs carry out various roles in the life cycle of the parasite and with respect to the molecular basis of disease. Here we focus on Plasmodium vivax PLP1 and PLP2 (PvPLP1 and PvPLP2) compared to TgPLP1. Determination of the crystal structure of the membrane-binding APCβ domain of PvPLP1 reveals notable differences with TgPLP1, reflected in its inability to bind lipid bilayers as TgPLP1 and PvPLP2 do. Molecular dynamics simulations combined with site-directed mutagenesis and functional assays allow dissection of the binding interactions of TgPLP1 and PvPLP2 on lipid bilayers, and reveal similar tropisms for lipids enriched in the inner leaflet of the mammalian plasma membrane. In addition PvPLP2 displays a secondary synergistic interaction side-on from its principal bilayer interface. This study underlines the substantial differences between the biophysical properties of the APCβ domains of apicomplexan PLPs, which reflect their significant sequence diversity. Such differences will be important factors in determining the cell targeting and membrane-binding activity of the different proteins in parasitic life cycles and disease.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of molecular biology

Publication Date





Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QU, UK; Division of Structural Biology, Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford, Roosevelt Drive, Oxford OX3 7BN, UK.


Animals, Mammals, Toxoplasma, Plasmodium vivax, Lipid Bilayers, Protozoan Proteins, Life Cycle Stages, Perforin