Invasion factors are coupled to key signalling events leading to the establishment of infection in apicomplexan parasites


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Invasion of host cells by apicomplexan parasites is initiated when specialized secretory organelles called micronemes discharge protein complexes onto the parasite surface in response to a rise in parasite intracellular calcium levels. The microneme proteins establish interactions with host cell receptors, engaging the parasite with the host cell surface, and signal for the immediate exocytosis of another set of secretory organelles named the rhoptries. The rhoptry proteins reprogram the invaded host cell and participate in the formation of the parasitophorous vacuole in which the intracellular parasite resides and replicates. Disengagement of the invading parasite from the host cell receptors involves the action of at least one parasite plasma membrane rhomboid protease, which is concomitantly implicated in a checkpoint that signals the parasite to switch from an invasive to a replicative mode.