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The membrane occupation and recognition nexus protein 1 (MORN1) is highly conserved among apicomplexan parasites and is associated with several structures that have a role in cell division. Here we dissected the role of MORN1 using the relatively simple budding process of Toxoplasma gondii as a model. Ablation of MORN1 in a conditional null mutant resulted in pronounced defects suggesting a central role for MORN1 in apicoplast segregation and in daughter cell budding. Lack of MORN1 resulted in double-headed parasites. These Janus-headed parasites form two complete apical complexes but fail to assemble a basal complex. Moreover, these parasites were capable of undergoing several more budding rounds resulting in the formation of up to 16-headed parasites conjoined at the basal end. Despite this segregation defect, the mother's cytoskeleton was completely disassembled in every budding round. Overall this argues that successful completion of the budding is not required for cell cycle progression. None of the known basal complex components, including a set of recently identified inner membrane complex (IMC) proteins, localized correctly in these multi-headed parasites. These data suggest that MORN1 is essential for assembly of the basal complex, and that lack of the basal complex abolishes the contractile capacity assigned to the basal complex late in daughter formation. Consistent with this hypothesis we observe that MORN1 mutants fail to efficiently constrict and divide the apicoplast. We used the null background provided by the mutant to dissect the function of subdomains of the MORN1 protein. This demonstrated that deletion of a single MORN domain already prevented the function of MORN1 whereas a critical role for the short linker between MORN domains 6 and 7 was identified. In conclusion, MORN1 is required for basal complex assembly and loss of MORN1 results in defects in apicoplast division and daughter segregation.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Cell Membrane, Cytokinesis, Gene Deletion, Gene Knockout Techniques, Phenotype, Plastids, Protozoan Proteins, Toxoplasma