Plasmodium falciparum is a unicellular protozoan parasite and causative agent of a severe form of malaria in humans, accounting for very high worldwide fatality rates. At the molecular level, survival of the parasite within the human host is mediated by P. falciparum heat shock proteins (PfHsps) that provide protection during febrile episodes. The ATP-dependent chaperone activity of Hsp70 relies on the co-chaperone J domain protein (JDP), with which it forms a chaperone-co-chaperone complex. The exported P. falciparum JDP (PfJDP), PFA0660w, has been shown to stimulate the ATPase activity of the exported chaperone, PfHsp70-x. Furthermore, PFA0660w has been shown to associate with another exported PfJDP, PFE0055c, and PfHsp70-x in J-dots, highly mobile structures found in the infected erythrocyte cytosol. Therefore, the present study aims to conduct a structural and functional characterization of the full-length exported PfJDP, PFE0055c. Recombinant PFE0055c was successfully expressed and purified and found to stimulate the basal ATPase activity of PfHsp70-x to a greater extent than PFA0660w but, like PFA0660w, did not significantly stimulate the basal ATPase activity of human Hsp70. Small-molecule inhibition assays were conducted to determine the effect of known inhibitors of JDPs (chalcone, C86) and Hsp70 (benzothiazole rhodacyanines, JG231 and JG98) on the basal and PFE0055c-stimulated ATPase activity of PfHsp70-x. In this study, JG231 and JG98 were found to inhibit both the basal and PFE0055c-stimulated ATPase activity of PfHsp70-x. C86 only inhibited the PFE0055c-stimulated ATPase activity of PfHsp70-x, consistent with PFE0055c binding to PfHsp70-x through its J domain. This research has provided further insight into the molecular basis of the interaction between these exported plasmodial chaperones, which could inform future antimalarial drug discovery studies.


ATPase activity, chalcone, co-chaperone-chaperone complex, heat shock protein, plasmodial J domain protein, rhodacyanine

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