The Plasmodium falciparum protein translation enzymes aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) are an emergent family of drug targets. The aaRS ensemble catalyses transfer of amino acids to cognate tRNAs, thus providing charged tRNAs for ribosomal consumption. P. falciparum proteome expression relies on a total of 36 aaRSs for the three translationally independent compartments of cytoplasm, apicoplast and mitochondria. In the present study, we show that, of this set of 36, a single genomic copy of mitochondrial phenylalanyl-tRNA synthetase (mFRS) is targeted to the parasite mitochondria, and that the mFRS gene is exclusive to malaria parasites within the apicomplexan phyla. Our protein cellular localization studies based on immunofluorescence data show that, along with mFRS, P. falciparum harbours two more phenylalanyl-tRNA synthetase (FRS) assemblies that are localized to its apicoplast and cytoplasm. The ‘extra’ mFRS is found in mitochondria of all asexual blood stage parasites and is competent in aminoacylation. We show further that the parasite mitochondria import tRNAs from the cytoplasmic tRNA pool. Hence drug targeting of FRSs presents a unique opportunity to potentially stall protein production in all three parasite translational compartments.

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