Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mechanism In The Malaria Parasite Aids Its Adaptation To Infected Individuals

Date:
August 7, 2007
Source:
Institute for Research in Biomedicine
Summary:
Plasmodium falciparum is responsible for the most severe forms of human malaria. Invasion of red blood cells is an essential step of the complex life cycle of this parasite. Scientists have discovered that the parasite has the ability to switch on and off the expression of some of the proteins it uses to enter its victim's red blood cells.

Plasmodium falciparum is responsible for the most severe forms of human malaria. Invasion of host red blood cells is an essential step of the complex life cycle of this parasite.

During the process of invasion, P. falciparum, which appears in the stage of a "merozoite", is exposed to antibodies from the immune system.

Consequently, the proteins of the merozoite that interact with red blood cells are a possible weak point, and thus a very clear target to develop vaccines. Alfred Cortés, an ICREA researcher working at IRB Barcelona and an expert in molecular parasitology, together with researchers from the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in London, have discovered that the parasite has the ability to switch on and off the expression of some of the proteins it uses to enter its victim's red blood cells.

The researchers believe that this ability makes the parasite more adaptable when attempting to invade the cells. 

30 genes are know to be involved in the process of invasion. Now, the scientists have found that P. falciparum can activate and deactivate the expression of 7 of these genes (and their corresponding proteins) without compromising the parasite's ability to enter normal or modified red blood cells.

According to Cortés, this suggests that the varied expression of these genes may help the parasite to escape the host organism's immune responses, although the researcher points out that this is yet to be confirmed.

The researchers discovered that the silencing mechanism happens at the epigenetic level, meaning that the parasite stops expressing a certain gene without changing the underlying genetic information, and that the mechanism is flexible, adaptable and easily reversible.

This means that the parasite can re-express the proteins relatively easily when infecting another individual or silence them again in a different host, explains Cortés. "We are talking about a very sophisticated adaptation system to the host and our challenge is to find out how this mechanism works at molecular level; that is, we need to figure out which specific epigenetic modifications are associated to activity or to silencing".

Another immediate objective is to find out how many of the 30 genes involved in the invasion of red blood cells are active or inactive in parasites found in nature. "Thanks to this study we have been able to identify 7 genes in 4 different genetic families that may be silenced in a specific P. falciparum strain; we suspect, however, that other genes may also be silenced, and we'll follow this up with studies on wild strains of the parasite", concludes Cortés.

The scientist, who leads a research line in molecular parasitology in the Genetic Translation Laboratory at IRB Barcelona, emphasizes that this study has also revealed that none of these proteins acting on its own would be a suitable candidate to develop a vaccine because the parasite will still succeed in invading the red blood cell to continue its life cycle.

Researchers like Alfred Cortés believe that more insight into the biology of this parasite will allow us to design vaccines with a high likelihood of success.

The study is published in the August 3 issue of PloS Pathogens.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Institute for Research in Biomedicine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Institute for Research in Biomedicine. "Mechanism In The Malaria Parasite Aids Its Adaptation To Infected Individuals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 August 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070803085220.htm>.
Institute for Research in Biomedicine. (2007, August 7). Mechanism In The Malaria Parasite Aids Its Adaptation To Infected Individuals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070803085220.htm
Institute for Research in Biomedicine. "Mechanism In The Malaria Parasite Aids Its Adaptation To Infected Individuals." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070803085220.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — Hoping to break the record for world's wooliest, Shaun the sheep came up 10 pounds shy with his fleece weighing over 50 pounds after being shorn for the first time in years. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) — Canadian scientists looking into the very first land animals took a fish out of water and forced it to walk. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fake Dogs Scare Real Geese from Wis. Park

Fake Dogs Scare Real Geese from Wis. Park

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — Parks officials in Stevens Point, Wisconsin had a fowl problem. Canadian Geese were making a mess of a park, so officials enlisted cardboard versions of man's best friend. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins