Intramembrane proteolysis is widely conserved throughout different forms of life, with three major types of proteases being known for their ability to cleave peptide bonds directly within the transmembrane domains of their substrates. Although intramembrane proteases have been extensively studied in humans and model organisms, they have only more recently been investigated in protozoan parasites, where they turn out to play important and sometimes unexpected roles. Signal peptide peptidases are involved in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) quality control and signal peptide degradation from exported proteins. Recent studies suggest that repurposing inhibitors developed for blocking presenilins may be useful for inhibiting the growth of Plasmodium, and possibly other protozoan parasites, by blocking signal peptide peptidases. Rhomboid proteases, originally described in the fly, are also widespread in parasites, and are especially expanded in apicomplexans. Their study in parasites has revealed novel roles that expand our understanding of how these proteases function. Within this diverse group of parasites, rhomboid proteases contribute to processing of adhesins involved in attachment, invasion, intracellular replication, phagocytosis, and immune evasion, placing them at the vertex of host-parasite interactions. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Intramembrane Proteases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2908-2915
Number of pages8
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2013


  • Adhesion
  • Apicomplexan parasite
  • Cell invasion
  • Rhomboid
  • Secretory pathway
  • Signal peptide peptidase


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