The life cycles of apicomplexan parasites such as Plasmodium spp. and Toxoplasma gondii are complex, consisting of proliferative and latent stages within multiple hosts. Dramatic transformations take place during the cycles, and they demand precise control of gene expression at all levels, including translation. This review focuses on the mechanisms that regulate translational control in Plasmodium and Toxoplasma, with a particular emphasis on the phosphorylation of the α subunit of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 (eIF2α). Phosphorylation of eIF2α (eIF2α~P) is a conserved mechanism that eukaryotic cells use to repress global protein synthesis while enhancing gene-specific translation of a subset of mRNAs. Elevated levels of eIF2α~P have been observed during latent stages in both Toxoplasma and Plasmodium, indicating that translational control plays a role in maintaining dormancy. Parasite-specific eIF2α kinases and phosphatases are also required for proper developmental transitions and adaptation to cellular stresses encountered during the life cycle. Identification of small-molecule inhibitors of apicomplexan eIF2α kinases may selectively interfere with parasite translational control and lead to the development of new therapies to treat malaria and toxoplasmosis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology