The Plasmodium falciparum chloroquine resistance transporter (PfCRT) is a key contributor to multidrug resistance and is also essential for the survival of the malaria parasite, yet its natural function remains unresolved. We identify host-derived peptides of 4-11 residues, varying in both charge and composition, as the substrates of PfCRT in vitro and in situ, and show that PfCRT does not mediate the non-specific transport of other metabolites and/or ions. We find that drug-resistance-conferring mutations reduce both the peptide transport capacity and substrate range of PfCRT, explaining the impaired fitness of drug-resistant parasites. Our results indicate that PfCRT transports peptides from the lumen of the parasite’s digestive vacuole to the cytosol, thereby providing a source of amino acids for parasite metabolism and preventing osmotic stress of this organelle. The resolution of PfCRT’s native substrates will aid the development of drugs that target PfCRT and/or restore the efficacy of existing antimalarials.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)