Activation of a Plasmodium falciparum cdc2-related kinase by heterologous p25 and cyclin H. Functional characterization of a P. falciparum cyclin homologue.
Several Plasmodium falciparum genes encoding cdc2-related protein kinases have been identified, but the modalities of their regulation remains largely unexplored. In the present study, we investigated the regulation in vitro of PfPK5, a putative homologue of Cdk1 (cdc2) in P. falciparum. We show that (i) PfPK5 is efficiently activated by heterologous (human) cyclin H and p25, a cyclin-like molecule that specifically activates human Cdk5; (ii) the activated enzyme can be inhibited by chemical Cdk inhibitors; (iii) Pfmrk, a putative P. falciparum homologue of the Cdk-activating kinase, does neither activate nor phosphorylate PfPK5; and (iv) PfPK5 is able to autophosphorylate in the presence of a cyclin. Taken together, these results suggest that the regulation of Plasmodium Cdks may differ in important aspects from that of their human counterparts. Furthermore, we cloned an open reading frame encoding a novel P. falciparum protein possessing maximal homology to cyclin H from various organisms, and we show that this protein, called Pfcyc-1, is able to activate recombinant PfPK5 in vitro with an efficiency similar to that of human cyclin H and p25. This work opens the way to the development of screening procedures aimed at identifying compounds that specifically target the parasite Cdks.