Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A key that opens cells to the deadly malaria parasite

22.12.2005


Researchers at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in India and a unit of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in France have made a key discovery about a molecule that helps the malaria parasite infect human cells. India is one of the countries most affected by this disease, which has infected 300 million people across the world and leads to over one million fatalities per year. The breakthrough, which was achieved at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, may represent an important step towards finding new therapies. The study appears in this week’s online edition of Nature (December 21).



Malaria is caused by a one-celled organism called Plasmodium, which is passed to humans through the bite of Anopheles mosquitoes. The parasite replicates inside red blood cells, which eventually burst. In order to enter these cells, it first has to bind to the cell through interactions of proteins on the surfaces of red blood cells and the parasite.

The new study reveals key features of a protein on the surface of Plasmodium that permits it to bind. The researchers obtained crystals of a module of this protein, called the Duffy-Binding Like (DBL) domain, which directly interacts with a "receptor" protein on red blood cells. Then they examined the crystals using very powerful X-rays of the UK-Medical Research Council Beamline BM14 at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble. X-ray crystallography is one of the only methods available to create atom-by-atom maps of proteins, which are too small to be seen by microscopes.


"Until now we have not had a close-up view of the precise surface where the two proteins interact," explains Amit Sharma, the corresponding author of the paper. "That surface is absolutely crucial in permitting the parasite to enter the cell. If we can determine its features in atomic detail, we may be able to find weak points that could make good targets for drugs."

In addition to interfering with the binding process, such drugs would also have to be specific: in other words, they shouldn’t interfere with normal processes in red blood cells. The receptor protein that allows Plasmodium to enter undoubtedly has other important functions. "What we’ve found is that the DBL has an absolutely unique architecture, which means that there should be a way to inhibit its activity without affecting healthy blood cells," says Hassan Belrhali, an EMBL researcher who participated in the project.

Evolution has produced many different species of Plasmodium. This work was carried out using a form of the parasite that doesn’t normally infect humans, but DBL modules are similar in different forms of the organism. This makes it likely that the findings can be extended to other types of Plasmodium. "Our results provide a structural framework by which to understand the DBLs of most malaria parasites, and could have an impact in the design of drugs to fight against this illness," explains Amit Sharma.

The researchers are also investigating molecules important at an earlier phase of malaria infections, when parasites invade the liver.

Anna-Lynn Wegener | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.embl.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New risk factors for anxiety disorders
24.02.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
24.02.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>