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Identification and Molecular Dissection of IMC32, a Conserved Toxoplasma Inner Membrane Complex Protein That Is Essential for Parasite Replication


The inner membrane complex (IMC) is a unique organelle of apicomplexan parasites that plays critical roles in parasite motility, host cell invasion, and replication. Despite the common functions of the organelle, relatively few IMC proteins are conserved across the phylum and the precise roles of many IMC components remain to be characterized. Here, we identify a novel component of the Toxoplasma gondii IMC (IMC32) that localizes to the body portion of the IMC and is recruited to developing daughter buds early during endodyogeny. IMC32 is essential for parasite survival, as its conditional depletion results in a complete collapse of the IMC that is lethal to the parasite. We demonstrate that localization of IMC32 is dependent on both an N-terminal palmitoylation site and a series of C-terminal coiled-coil domains. Using deletion analyses and functional complementation, we show that two conserved regions within the C-terminal coiled-coil domains play critical roles in protein function during replication. Together, this work reveals an essential component of parasite replication that provides a novel target for therapeutic intervention of T. gondii and related apicomplexan parasites.IMPORTANCE The IMC is an important organelle that apicomplexan parasites use to maintain their intracellular lifestyle. While many IMC proteins have been identified, only a few central players that are essential for internal budding have been described and even fewer are conserved across the phylum. Here, we identify IMC32, a novel component of the Toxoplasma gondii IMC that localizes to very early daughter buds, indicating a role in the early stages of parasite replication. We then demonstrate that IMC32 is essential for parasite survival and pinpoint conserved regions within the protein that are important for membrane association and daughter cell formation. As IMC32 is unique to these parasites and not present in their mammalian hosts, it serves as a new target for the development of drugs that exclusively affect these important intracellular pathogens.

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