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Apicomplexans pulling the strings: manipulation of the host cell cytoskeleton dynamics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 April 2016

Institute of Parasitology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Berne, Länggass-Strasse 122, Bern 3012, Switzerland Centro de Investigação Interdisciplinar em Sanidade Animal, Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária, Universidade de Lisboa, Avenida da Universidade Técnica, 1300-477 Lisboa, Portugal
Escola Superior de Tecnologia da Saúde de Lisboa, 1990-096 Lisboa, Portugal Centro de Química e Bioquímica, Departamento de Química e Bioquímica, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal
Institute of Parasitology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Berne, Länggass-Strasse 122, Bern 3012, Switzerland
Centro de Investigação Interdisciplinar em Sanidade Animal, Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária, Universidade de Lisboa, Avenida da Universidade Técnica, 1300-477 Lisboa, Portugal
*Corresponding author: Institute of Parasitology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Berne, Länggass-Strasse 122, Bern 3012, Switzerland. Tel: +41 31 631 2396. Fax: +41 31 631 2477. E-mail:


Invasive stages of apicomplexan parasites require a host cell to survive, proliferate and advance to the next life cycle stage. Once invasion is achieved, apicomplexans interact closely with the host cell cytoskeleton, but in many cases the different species have evolved distinct mechanisms and pathways to modulate the structural organization of cytoskeletal filaments. The host cell cytoskeleton is a complex network, largely, but not exclusively, composed of microtubules, actin microfilaments and intermediate filaments, all of which are modulated by associated proteins, and it is involved in diverse functions including maintenance of cell morphology and mechanical support, migration, signal transduction, nutrient uptake, membrane and organelle trafficking and cell division. The ability of apicomplexans to modulate the cytoskeleton to their own advantage is clearly beneficial. We here review different aspects of the interactions of apicomplexans with the three main cytoskeletal filament types, provide information on the currently known parasite effector proteins and respective host cell targets involved, and how these interactions modulate the host cell physiology. Some of these findings could provide novel targets that could be exploited for the development of preventive and/or therapeutic strategies.

Review Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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Apicomplexans pulling the strings: manipulation of the host cell cytoskeleton dynamics
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Apicomplexans pulling the strings: manipulation of the host cell cytoskeleton dynamics
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