Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 25257508
Link to DOI – 10.15252/emmm.201403868
EMBO Mol Med 2014 Nov; 6(11): 1387-97
The malaria parasite, Plasmodium, requires iron for growth, but how it imports iron remains unknown. We characterize here a protein that belongs to the ZIP (Zrt-, Irt-like Protein) family of metal ion transport proteins and have named ZIP domain-containing protein (ZIPCO). Inactivation of the ZIPCO-encoding gene in Plasmodium berghei, while not affecting the parasite’s ability to multiply in mouse blood and to infect mosquitoes, greatly impairs its capacity to develop inside hepatocytes. Iron/zinc supplementation and depletion experiments suggest that ZIPCO is required for parasite utilization of iron and possibly zinc, consistent with its predicted function as a metal transporter. This is the first report of a ZIP protein having a crucial role in Plasmodium liver-stage development, as well as the first metal ion transporter identified in Plasmodium pre-erythrocytic stages. Because of the drastic dependence on iron of Plasmodium growth, ZIPCO and related proteins might constitute attractive drug targets to fight against malaria.