A partially structured region of a largely unstructured protein,Plasmodium falciparummerozoite surface protein 2 (MSP2), forms amyloid-like fibrils Academic Article uri icon


  • Merozoite surface protein 2 (MSP2) from the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum is expressed as a GPI-anchored protein on the merozoite surface. It has been implicated in the process of erythrocyte invasion and is a leading vaccine candidate. MSP2 is an intrinsically unstructured protein (IUP), and recombinant MSP2 forms amyloid-like fibrils upon storage. We have examined synthetic peptides corresponding to sequences in the conserved N-terminal region of MSP2 for the presence of local structure and the ability to form fibrils related to those formed by full-length MSP2. In a 25-residue peptide corresponding to the entire N-terminal region of mature MSP2, structures calculated from NMR data show the presence of nascent helical and turn-like structures. An 8-residue peptide from the central region of the N-terminal domain (residues 8-15) also formed a turn-like structure. Both peptides formed fibrils that were similar but not identical to the amyloid-like fibrils formed by full-length MSP2. Notably, the fibrils formed by the peptides bound both Congo Red and Thioflavin T, whereas the fibrils formed by full-length MSP2 bound only Congo Red. The propensity of peptides from the N-terminal conserved region of MSP2 to form amyloid-like fibrils makes it likely that this region contributes to fibril formation by the full-length protein. Thus, in contrast to the more common pathway of amyloid formation by structured proteins, which proceeds via partially unfolded intermediates that then undergo beta-aggregation, MSP2 is an example of a largely unstructured protein with at least one small structured region that has an important role in fibril formation.

publication date

  • December 2007