Invasion of erythrocytes by Plasmodium falciparum requires a connection between the cytoplasmic tail of the parasite's ligands for its erythrocyte receptors and the actin-myosin motor of the parasite. For the thromobospondin-related anonymous protein (TRAP) ligand on Plasmodium sporozoites, aldolase forms this connection and requires tryptophan and negatively charged amino acids in the ligand's cytoplasmic tail. Because of the importance of the Duffy binding-like (DBL) and the reticulo-cyte homology (RH) ligand families in erythrocyte binding and merozoite invasion, we characterized the ability of their cytoplas-mic tails to bind aldolase and glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), both of which bind actin. We tested the binding of the cytoplasmic peptides of the two ligand families to aldolase and GAPDH. Only the cytoplasmic peptides of some RH ligands showed strong binding to aldolase, and the binding depended on the presence of an aromatic amino acid (phenylala-nine or tyrosine), rather than tryptophan, in the context of negatively charged amino acids. The binding was confirmed by surface plasmon resonance analysis and was found to represent affinity similar to that seen with TRAP. An X-ray crystal structure of aldolase at 2.5 Å in the presence of RH2b peptide suggested that the binding site location was near the TRAP-binding site. GAPDH bound to some of the cytoplasmic tails of certain RH and DBL ligands in an aromatic amino acid-dependent manner. Thus, the connection between Plasmodium merozoite ligands and erythrocyte receptors and the actin motor can be achieved through the activity of either aldolase or GAPDH by mechanisms that do not require tryptophan but, rather, other aromatic amino acids.
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