The apicomplexan ATP synthase
The ATP synthase is a molecular complex that couples the proton-motive force, generated by respiration, to ATP synthesis. This crucial process is intricately regulated in eukaryotes. As such, expression and regulation of its subunits respond to the cellular demands that can drastically change depending on the environment. Our work identified an array of novel ATP synthase-associated proteins found only in apicomplexans. We seek to understand the function of these apicomplexan-specific subunits, which may serve important roles within the complex and reveal new aspects of this important enzyme from a functional and evolutionary perspective.
One defining feature of many apicomplexans is the presence of a single mitochondrion and a relict chloroplast, the apicoplast, that houses numerous essential metabolic pathways. These organelles have co-evolved for more than half a million years, resulting in a unique and divergent crosstalk of metabolic pathways between both compartments. While the apicoplast provides fatty acids and isoprenoids to the mitochondrion and the rest of the cell, the role of mitochondrial metabolites used by the apicoplast are less understood. We study the function of these metabolites in apicoplast metabolism, allowing us to retrace the metabolic pathways connecting the two organelles, and the requirements of mitochondrial metabolites and reducing power to apicoplast function.