Enolase is the eighth enzyme in the glycolytic pathway, a reaction that generates ATP from phosphoenol pyruvate in cytosolic compartments. Enolase is essential, especially for organisms devoid of the Krebs cycle that depend solely on glycolysis for energy. Interestingly, enolase appears to serve a separate function in some organisms, in that it is also exported to the cell surface via a poorly understood mechanism. In these organisms, surface enolase assists in the invasion of their host cells by binding plasminogen, an abundant plasma protease precursor. Binding is mediated by the interaction between a lysine motif of enolase with Kringle domains of plasminogen. The bound plasminogen is then cleaved by specific proteases to generate active plasmin. Plasmin is a potent serine protease that is thought to function in the degradation of the extracellular matrix surrounding the targeted host cell, thereby facilitating pathogen invasion. Recent work revealed that the malaria parasite Plasmodium
also expresses surface enolase, and that this feature may be essential for completion of its life cycle. The therapeutic potential of targeting surface enolases of pathogens is discussed.