Autophagy in Apicomplexa: A life sustaining death mechanism?

Anthony P. Sinai, Paul D. Roepe

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Programmed cell death (PCD) pathways remain understudied in parasitic protozoa in spite of the fact that they provide potential targets for the development of new therapy. The best understood PCD pathway in higher eukaryotes is apoptosis although emerging evidence also points to autophagy as a mediator of death in certain physiological contexts. Bioinformatic analyses coupled with biochemical and cell biological studies suggest that parasitic protozoa possess the capacity for PCD including a primordial form of apoptosis. Recent work in . Toxoplasma and emerging data from . Plasmodium suggest that autophagy-related processes may serve as an additional death promoting pathway in Apicomplexa. Detailed mechanistic studies into the molecular basis for PCD in parasitic protozoa represent a fertile area for investigation and drug development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-364
Number of pages7
JournalTrends in Parasitology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Work in the Roepe laboratory reported here was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (RO1AI056312 and RO1 AI045957). Work in the Sinai laboratory reported here was supported by NIH (RO1AI049367). We thank Ms Becca Eller and Mr David Gaviria for preparing Figures 1 and 2 , respectively, and for helpful discussions. We also thank Drs Peter Bradley and John Boothroyd for the mouse anti-F1β and rabbit anti-SAG1 antibodies, respectively.


  • Apicomplexa
  • Autophagy
  • Plasmodium
  • Programmed cell death (PCD)
  • Toxoplasma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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