The Plasmodium falciparum MESA erythrocyte cytoskeleton-binding (MEC)motif binds to erythrocyte ankyrin

Geoffrey Kimiti Kilili, Bikash Shakya, Patrick T. Dolan, Ling Wang, Monica L. Husby, Robert V. Stahelin, Ernesto S. Nakayasu, Douglas J. LaCount

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The MESA erythrocyte cytoskeleton binding (MEC)motif is a 13-amino acid sequence found in 14 exported Plasmodium falciparum proteins. First identified in the P. falciparum Mature-parasite-infected Erythrocyte Surface Antigen (MESA), the MEC motif is sufficient to target proteins to the infected red blood cell cytoskeleton. To identify host cell targets, purified MESA MEC motif was incubated with a soluble extract from uninfected erythrocytes, precipitated and subjected to mass spectrometry. The most abundant co-purifying protein was erythrocyte ankyrin (ANK1). A direct interaction between the MEC motif and ANK1 was independently verified using co-purification experiments, the split-luciferase assay, and the yeast two-hybrid assay. A systematic mutational analysis of the core MEC motif demonstrated a critical role for the conserved aspartic acid residue at the C-terminus of the MEC motif for binding to both erythrocyte inside-out vesicles and to ANK1. Using a panel of ANK1 constructs, the MEC motif binding site was localized to the ZU5C domain, which has no known function. The MEC motif had no impact on erythrocyte deformability when introduced into uninfected erythrocyte ghosts, suggesting the MEC motif's primary function is to target exported proteins to the cytoskeleton. Finally, we show that PF3D7_0402100 (PFD0095c)binds to ANK1 and band 4.1, likely through its MEC and PHIST motifs, respectively. In conclusion, we have provided multiple lines of evidence that the MEC motif binds to erythrocyte ANK1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number111189
JournalMolecular and Biochemical Parasitology
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Ankyrin
  • Band 4.1
  • Exported protein
  • Host-pathogen interaction
  • MESA
  • PF3D7_0402100
  • PF3D7_0500800
  • Plasmodium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Molecular Biology

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