A Common Cross-species Function for the Double Epidermal Growth Factor-like Modules of the Highly DivergentPlasmodiumSurface Proteins MSP-1 and MSP-8 Academic Article uri icon


  • An understanding of structural and functional constraints on the C-terminal double epidermal growth factor (EGF)-like modules of merozoite surface protein (MSP)-1 and related proteins is of importance to the development of these molecules as malaria vaccines and drug targets. Using allelic replacement, we show that Plasmodium falciparum parasites can invade erythrocytes and grow efficiently in the absence of an MSP-1 protein with authentic MSP-1 EGF domains. In this mutant parasite line, the MSP-1 EGFs were replaced by the corresponding double EGF module from P. berghei MSP-8, the sequence of which shares only low identity with its MSP-1 counterpart. Hence, the C-terminal EGF domains of at least some Plasmodium surface proteins appear to perform the same function in asexual blood-stage development. Mapping the surface location of the few residues that are common to these functionally complementary EGF modules revealed the presence of a highly conserved pocket of potential functional significance. In contrast to MSP-8, an even more divergent double EGF module, that from the sexual stage protein PbS25, was not capable of complementing MSP-1 EGF function. More surprisingly, two chimeric double EGF modules comprising hybrids of the EGF domains from P. falciparum and P. chabaudi MSP-1 were also not capable of replacing the P. falciparum MSP-1 EGF module. Together, these data suggest that although the MSP-1 EGFs can accommodate extensive sequence diversity, there appear to be constraints that may restrict the simple accumulation of point mutations in the face of immune pressure in the field.


publication date

  • May 7, 2004

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