Lipid rafts are detergent-resistant, liquid-ordered microdomains in plasma membranes that are enriched in cholesterol and sphingolipids and involved in intracellular signal transduction, membrane trafficking, and molecular sorting. In this study, we investigated the possibility that lipid rafts on Eimeria tenella sporozoites may act as platforms for host cell invasion. Flotillin-1, a resident protein of lipid rafts, was identified on E. tenella sporozoites and was prominently expressed at the apex of the cells, a region mediating host cell invasion. Pretreatment of sporozoites with antibody against flotillin-1 blocked parasite invasion. Furthermore, the anticoccidial drug, monensin, disrupted the localization of flotillin-1 within raft structures resulting in loss of invasion. We conclude that Eimeria sporozoites utilize lipid rafts containing flotillin-1 for internalization into host cells.

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