Nature Reviews Microbiology 2, 203-216 (March 2004) | doi:10.1038/nrmicro843

Article series: Tropical Infectious Diseases

Tropical infectious diseases: Metabolic maps and functions of the Plasmodium falciparum apicoplast

Stuart A. Ralph1, Giel G. van Dooren2, Ross F. Waller3, Michael J. Crawford4, Martin J. Fraunholz4, Bernardo J. Foth5, Christopher J. Tonkin2, David S. Roos4 & Geoffrey I. McFadden2  About the authors


Discovery of a relict chloroplast (the apicoplast) in malarial parasites presented new opportunities for drug development. The apicoplast – although no longer photosynthetic – is essential to parasites. Combining bioinformatics approaches with experimental validation in the laboratory, we have identified more than 500 proteins predicted to function in the apicoplast. By comparison with plant chloroplasts, we have reconstructed several anabolic pathways for the parasite plastid that are fundamentally different to the analogous pathways in the human host and are potentially good targets for drug development. Products of these pathways seem to be exported from the apicoplast and might be involved in host-cell invasion.

Author affiliations

  1. Institut Pasteur, Biology of Host–Parasite Interactions, 25 Rue du Docteur Roux, 75724, Paris, Cedex 15, France.
  2. Plant Cell Biology Research Centre, School of Botany, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010 Australia.
  3. Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Program in Evolutionary Biology, Department of Botany, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada.
  4. Department of Biology and Genomics Institute, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
  5. Department of Biological Sciences, Imperial College London, London SW7 2AZ, UK.

Correspondence to: Geoffrey I. McFadden2 Email:


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