While searching for new targets for malaria drugs and vaccines, a team including a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) medical student fellow reached a fundamental insight about evolution: different species make use of similar sets of proteins in different ways.
"Weve observed that organisms may share many similar proteins and yet retain very little parallel function among them," said Taylor Sittler, a medical student at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts. "For instance, Plasmodium falciparum--the parasite that causes malaria--shares with its human host many proteins involved in forming chromosomes during cell division, but those proteins may interact in different ways, creating different cellular pathways and even entirely different functions. This contradicts the currently accepted paradigm that shared proteins interact simply because their genes are conserved. It was quite unexpected," he added.
Malaria is the third leading cause of infectious disease death in the world, after tuberculosis and AIDS. The World Health Organization estimates the parasite causes acute illness in some 300 million people each year, resulting in about 2.7 million deaths.
Jennifer Donovan | EurekAlert!
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