Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Gene expands malaria’s invasion options

29.08.2005


The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum uses different pathways to invade red blood cells, evading the body’s immune system and complicating efforts to create effective vaccines against the disease. A research team led by Australia’s Alan F. Cowman, an international research scholar with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, has identified a gene that the parasite uses to switch back and forth between invasion pathways.



Researchers from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, and the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation in San Diego contributed to the work, which was published in the August 26, 2005, issue of Science, P. falciparum causes the most lethal form of malaria, which results in one million deaths a year worldwide.

Some P. falciparum strains invade red blood cells via protein receptors on the surface that contain a sugar known as sialic acid. If scientists treat blood cells with an enzyme to remove sialic acid, the parasite can no longer invade. Other strains – including one called W2mef – can invade using the sialic acid receptors, but also have the ability to switch to other pathways if necessary.


"It’s a bit like someone trying to get into a house with different doors," says. Cowman of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia, and the study’s senior author. "When you remove sialic acid, you block half the doors. W2mef normally goes in through the receptors with sialic acid, but it can switch – so it has two methods of entry."

To investigate how the parasite manages to switch to an alternative mode of blood cell invasion, Cowman and colleagues produced lines of the W2mef parasite that used sialic acid for invasion, and lines that could invade without it. Then they compared the differences in gene activity between the two types and identified two genes that warranted further study.

The team found only two genes whose activity differed between parasites that used sialic acid and those that did not. The first of these was a gene known as P. falciparum reticulocyte-binding like homolog 4 (PfRh4) that’s similar to other genes known to play a role in the invasion of red blood cells by P. falciparum and related parasites. The second gene, EBA165, did not appear to produce a functional protein, and the scientists suspect it had been activated only because it was physically adjacent to PfRh4. Using a second, more quantitative approach, the team found that the two genes were 60- to-80 times more active in the sialic acid-independent parasites than in those that needed the sugar for cell entry.

These results suggested that activation of the PfRh4 gene was required for the parasite to make the switch to sialic acid-independent invasion. Indeed, the team was able to find PfRh4 protein in sialic acid-independent parasites, but not in the sialic acid-dependent lines. And when the group constructed parasites in which the PfRh4 gene was disrupted, they found that those parasites would not grow in the absence of sialic acid, although they grew normally on cells with the sugar – further suggesting that activation of the PfRh4 gene is required for switching from sialic acid-dependent to –independent invasion.

"Activation of PfRh4 represents a previously unknown mechanism to switch invasion pathways and provides P. falciparum with exquisite adaptability in the face of receptor changes and immune system responses," the team concluded.

The results have important implications for the design of anti-malaria vaccines. The molecule on the parasite that binds to sialic acid receptors on host cells is considered a target in anti-malaria medications, but Cowman notes that if only that gene is blocked, some parasites can still use PfRh4 to switch to other means of entry. "If both genes are disrupted, it blocks both ways of getting in," he says.

Brad Allen | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.researchaustralia.com.au/
http://www.wehi.edu.au

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>