Isoprenoid biosynthesis inhibition disrupts Rab5 localization and food vacuolar integrity in Plasmodium falciparum

Ruth Howe, Megan Kelly, John Jimah, Dana Hodge, Audrey R. Odoma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


The antimalarial agent fosmidomycin is a validated inhibitor of the nonmevalonate isoprenoid biosynthesis (methylerythritol 4-phosphate [MEP]) pathway in the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. Since multiple classes of prenyltransferase inhibitors kill P. falciparum, we hypothesized that protein prenylation was one of the essential functions of this pathway. We found that MEP pathway inhibition with fosmidomycin reduces protein prenylation, confirming that de novo isoprenoid biosynthesis produces the isoprenyl substrates for protein prenylation. One important group of prenylated proteins is small GTPases, such as Rab family members, which mediate cellular vesicular trafficking. We have found that Rab5 proteins dramatically mislocalize upon fosmidomycin treatment, consistent with a loss of protein prenylation. Fosmidomycin treatment caused marked defects in food vacuolar morphology and integrity, consistent with a defect in Rab-mediated vesicular trafficking. These results provide insights to the biological functions of isoprenoids in malaria parasites and may assist the rational selection of secondary agents that will be useful in combination therapy with new isoprenoid biosynthesis inhibitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-223
Number of pages9
JournalEukaryotic Cell
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology


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