Susann Herrmann

McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

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Publications (11)60.69 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: To survive and persist within its human host, the malaria parasite P. falciparum utilizes a battery of lineage-specific innovations to invade and multiply in human erythrocytes. With central roles in invasion and cytokinesis, the inner membrane complex, a Golgi derived double membrane structure underlying the plasma membrane of the parasite, represents a unique and unifying structure characteristic to all organisms belonging to a large phylogenetic group called Alveolata. More than 30 structurally and phylogenetically distinct proteins are embedded in the IMC membranes, where a portion of these proteins displays N-terminal acylation motifs. While N-terminal myristoylation is catalyzed co-translationally within the cytoplasm of the parasite, palmitoylation takes place at membranes and is mediated by palmitoyl acyltransferases (PATs). Here, we identify a PAT (PfDHHC1) that is exclusively localized to the IMC. Systematic phylogenetic analysis of the alveolate PAT family reveals PfDHHC1 to be a member of a highly conserved, apicomplexan-specific clade of PATs. We show that during schizogony this enzyme has an identical distribution like two, dual acylated, IMC localized proteins (PfISP1 and PfISP3). We used these proteins to probe into specific sequence requirements for IMC specific membrane recruitment, and their interaction with differentially localized PATs of the parasite. Copyright © 2014, The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
    The Journal of biological chemistry. 11/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Rhoptries are specialized secretory organelles characteristic of single cell organisms belonging to the clade Apicomplexa. These organelles play a key role in the invasion process of host cells by accumulating and subsequently secreting an unknown number of proteins mediating host cell entry. Despite their essential role, little is known about their biogenesis, components and targeting determinants. Here, we report on a conserved apicomplexan protein termed Armadillo Repeats-Only (ARO) protein that we localized to the cytosolic face of Plasmodium falciparum and Toxoplasma gondii rhoptries. We show that the first 20 N-terminal amino acids are sufficient for rhoptry membrane targeting. This protein relies on both - myristoylation and palmitoylation motifs - for membrane attachment. Although these lipid modifications are essential, they are not sufficient to direct ARO to the rhoptry membranes. Mutational analysis revealed additional residues within the first 20 amino acids of ARO that play an important role for rhoptry membrane attachment: the positively charged residues R9 and K14. Interestingly, the exchange of R9 with a negative charge entirely abolishes membrane attachment, whereas the exchange of K14 (and to a lesser extent K16) alters only its membrane specificity. Additionally, 17 proteins predicted to be myristoylated and palmitoylated in the first 20 N-terminal amino acids were identified in the genome of the malaria parasite. While most of the corresponding GFP fusion proteins were trafficked to the parasite plasma membrane, two were sorted to the apical organelles. Interestingly, these proteins have a similar motif identified for ARO.
    Traffic 07/2012; 13(10):1335-50. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The inner membrane complex (IMC) is a unifying morphological feature of all alveolate organisms. It consists of flattened vesicles underlying the plasma membrane and is interconnected with the cytoskeleton. Depending on the ecological niche of the organisms, the function of the IMC ranges from a fundamental role as reinforcement system to more specialized roles in motility and cytokinesis. In this article, we present a comprehensive evolutionary analysis of IMC components, which exemplifies the adaptive nature of the IMCs' protein composition. Focusing on eight structurally distinct proteins in the most prominent "genus" of the Alveolata-the malaria parasite Plasmodium-we demonstrate that the level of conservation is reflected in phenotypic characteristics, accentuated in differential spatial-temporal patterns of these proteins in the motile stages of the parasite's life cycle. Colocalization studies with the centromere and the spindle apparatus reveal their discriminative biogenesis. We also reveal that the IMC is an essential structural compartment for the development of the sexual stages of Plasmodium, as it seems to drive the morphological changes of the parasite during the long and multistaged process of sexual differentiation. We further found a Plasmodium-specific IMC membrane matrix protein that highlights transversal structures in gametocytes, which could represent a genus-specific structural innovation required by Plasmodium. We conclude that the IMC has an additional role during sexual development supporting morphogenesis of the cell, which in addition to its functions in the asexual stages highlights the multifunctional nature of the IMC in the Plasmodium life cycle.
    Molecular Biology and Evolution 03/2012; 29(9):2113-32. · 14.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Plasmodium falciparum origin recognition complex 1 (ORC1) protein has been implicated in DNA replication and silencing var gene family. However, the mechanism and the domain structure of ORC1 related to the regulation of var gene family are unknown. Here we show that the unique N-terminus of PfORC1 (PfORC1N(1-238)) is targeted to the nuclear periphery in vivo and this region binds to the telomeric DNA in vitro due to the presence of a leucine heptad repeats. Like PfORC1N(1-238), endogenous full length ORC1, was found to be associated with sub telomeric repeat regions and promoters of various var genes. Additionally, binding and propagation of ORC1 to telomeric and subtelomeric regions was severely compromised in PfSir2 deficient parasites suggesting the dependence of endogenous ORC1 on Sir2 for var gene regulation. This feature is not previously described for Plasmodium ORC1 and contrary to yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae where ORC function as a landing pad for Sir proteins. Interestingly, the overexpression of ORC1N(1-238) compromises the binding of Sir2 at the subtelomeric loci and var gene promoters consistent with de-repression of some var genes. These results establish role of the N-terminus of PfORC1 in heterochromatin formation and regulation of var gene expression in co-ordination with Sir2 in P. falciparum.
    Nucleic Acids Research 02/2012; 40(12):5313-31. · 8.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A key process in the lifecycle of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum is the fast invasion of human erythrocytes. Entry into the host cell requires the apical membrane antigen 1 (AMA-1), a type I transmembrane protein located in the micronemes of the merozoite. Although AMA-1 is evolving into the leading blood-stage malaria vaccine candidate, its precise role in invasion is still unclear. We investigate AMA-1 function using live video microscopy in the absence and presence of an AMA-1 inhibitory peptide. This data reveals a crucial function of AMA-1 during the primary contact period upstream of the entry process at around the time of moving junction formation. We generate a Plasmodium falciparum cell line that expresses a functional GFP-tagged AMA-1. This allows the visualization of the dynamics of AMA-1 in live parasites. We functionally validate the ectopically expressed AMA-1 by establishing a complementation assay based on strain-specific inhibition. This method provides the basis for the functional analysis of essential genes that are refractory to any genetic manipulation. Using the complementation assay, we show that the cytoplasmic domain of AMA-1 is not required for correct trafficking and surface translocation but is essential for AMA-1 function. Although this function can be mimicked by the highly conserved cytoplasmic domains of P. vivax and P. berghei, the exchange with the heterologous domain of the microneme protein EBA-175 or the rhoptry protein Rh2b leads to a loss of function. We identify several residues in the cytoplasmic tail that are essential for AMA-1 function. We validate this data using additional transgenic parasite lines expressing AMA-1 mutants with TY1 epitopes. We show that the cytoplasmic domain of AMA-1 is phosphorylated. Mutational analysis suggests an important role for the phosphorylation in the invasion process, which might translate into novel therapeutic strategies.
    PLoS Pathogens 04/2009; 5(3):e1000322. · 8.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A short motif termed Plasmodium export element (PEXEL) or vacuolar targeting signal (VTS) characterizes Plasmodium proteins exported into the host cell. These proteins mediate host cell modifications essential for parasite survival and virulence. However, several PEXEL-negative exported proteins indicate that the currently predicted malaria exportome is not complete and it is unknown whether and how these proteins relate to PEXEL-positive export. Here we show that the N-terminal 10 amino acids of the PEXEL-negative exported protein REX2 (ring-exported protein 2) are necessary for its targeting and that a single-point mutation in this region abolishes export. Furthermore we show that the REX2 transmembrane domain is also essential for export and that together with the N-terminal region it is sufficient to promote export of another protein. An N-terminal region and the transmembrane domain of the unrelated PEXEL-negative exported protein SBP1 (skeleton-binding protein 1) can functionally replace the corresponding regions in REX2, suggesting that these sequence features are also present in other PEXEL-negative exported proteins. Similar to PEXEL proteins we find that REX2 is processed, but in contrast, detect no evidence for N-terminal acetylation.
    Molecular Microbiology 02/2009; 71(4):1003-17. · 5.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of malaria, relies on a complex protein-secretion system for protein targeting into numerous subcellular destinations. Recently, a homologue of the Golgi re-assembly stacking protein (GRASP) was identified and used to characterise the Golgi organisation in this parasite. Here, we report on the presence of a splice variant that leads to the expression of a GRASP isoform. Although the first GRASP protein (GRASP1) relies on a well-conserved myristoylation motif, the variant (GRASP2) displays a different N-terminus, similar to GRASPs found in fungi. Phylogenetic analyses between GRASP proteins of numerous taxa point to an independent evolution of the unusual N-terminus that could reflect unique requirements for Golgi-dependent protein sorting and organelle biogenesis in P. falciparum. Golgi association of GRASP2 depends on the hydrophobic N-terminus that resembles a signal anchor, leading to a unique mode of Golgi targeting and membrane attachment.
    Journal of Cell Science 07/2008; 121(Pt 13):2123-9. · 5.88 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: One of the key processes in the pathobiology of the malaria parasite is the invasion and subsequent modification of the human erythrocyte. In this complex process, an unknown number of parasite proteins are involved, some of which are leading vaccine candidates. The majority of the proteins that play pivotal roles in invasion are either stored in the apical secretory organelles or located on the surface of the merozoite, the invasive stage of the parasite. Using transcriptional and structural features of these known proteins, we performed a genomewide search that identified 49 hypothetical proteins with a high probability of being located on the surface of the merozoite or in the secretory organelles. Of these candidates, we characterized a novel leucine zipper-like protein in Plasmodium falciparum that is conserved in Plasmodium spp. This protein is expressed in late blood stages and localizes to the rhoptries of the parasite. We demonstrate that this Plasmodium sp.-specific protein has a high degree of conservation within field isolates and that it is refractory to gene knockout attempts and thus might play an important role in invasion.
    Infection and immunity 04/2008; 76(3):879-87. · 4.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Golgi apparatus forms the heart of the secretory pathway in eukaryotic cells where proteins are modified, processed and sorted. The transport of proteins from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to the cis-side of the Golgi complex takes place at specialized ER sub-domains known as transitional ER (tER). We used the Plasmodium falciparum orthologue of Sec13p to analyse tER organization. We show that the distribution of PfSec13p is restricted to defined areas of the ER membrane. These foci are juxtaposed to the Golgi apparatus and might represent tER sites. To further analyse cis- to trans-Golgi architecture, we generated a double transfectant parasite line that expresses the Golgi marker Golgi reassembly stacking protein (GRASP) as a green fluorescent protein fusion and the trans-Golgi marker Rab6 as a DsRed fusion protein. Our data demonstrate that Golgi multiplication is closely linked to tER multiplication, and that parasite maturation is accompanied by the spatial separation of the cis- and trans- face of this organelle.
    Molecular Microbiology 04/2008; 67(6):1320-30. · 5.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The proliferation of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum within the human host is dependent upon invasion of erythrocytes. This process is accomplished by the merozoite, a highly specialized form of the parasite. Secretory organelles including micronemes and rhoptries play a pivotal role in the invasion process by storing and releasing parasite proteins. The mechanism of protein sorting to these compartments is unclear. Using a transgenic approach we show that trafficking of the most abundant micronemal proteins (members of the EBL-family: EBA-175, EBA-140/BAEBL, and EBA-181/JSEBL) is independent of their cytoplasmic and transmembrane domains, respectively. To identify the minimal sequence requirements for microneme trafficking, we generated parasites expressing EBA-GFP chimeric proteins and analyzed their distribution within the infected erythrocyte. This revealed that: (i) a conserved cysteine-rich region in the ectodomain is necessary for protein trafficking to the micronemes and (ii) correct sorting is dependent on accurate timing of expression.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 11/2006; 281(42):31995-2003. · 4.65 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

177 Citations
60.69 Total Impact Points


  • 2012
    • McMaster University
      • Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine
      Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • 2006–2012
    • Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine
      • Department of Molecular Parasitology
      Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
  • 2008
    • Radboud University Nijmegen
      • Department of Molecular Biology
      Nymegen, Gelderland, Netherlands