It is particularly dangerous for pregnant women, whose foetuses can be infected via the placenta, and those with a weakened immune system, such as people infected with HIV. In severe cases, toxoplasmosis can cause damage to the brain and eyes, and even death.
Now researchers from London and Geneva have determined, for the first time, the atomic structure of a key protein which is released onto the surface of the parasite just before it invades host cells in the human body. They found that the protein known as TgMIC1 binds to certain sugars on the surface of the host cell, assisting the parasite to stick to, and then enter the human cell.
Using a novel carbohydrate microarray the team were able to identify the precise sugars to which the parasite protein binds. Following this the team used a combination of NMR spectroscopy and cellular studies to characterise the behaviour and interactions of the parasite protein and host cell sugars. This means that the team have a more detailed picture than ever before of exactly how the parasite recognises and attacks host cells in the body.
Professor Steve Matthews from Imperial College London’s Division of Molecular Biosciences, one of the paper’s authors, explains the significance of the research, saying: "Understanding the fundamental, atomic-level detail of how diseases like toxoplasmosis pick out and invade host cells in the human body is vital if we want to fight these diseases effectively.
"Now that we understand that it’s a key interaction between a protein on the parasite’s surface and sugars on the human cell which lead to the cell’s invasion, there is potential to develop therapeutics that are targeted at disrupting this mechanism, therefore thwarting infection."
Toxoplasma gondii, the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, is one of the world’s most common parasites. Around a quarter to half of the world’s population is thought to be infected, and around 1% of people in the UK catch toxoplasmosis each year. In the majority of cases, those affected don’t have any symptoms. But for those with weakened immune systems, and unborn babies, toxoplasmosis can cause very serious health problems.
Danielle Reeves | EurekAlert!
Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy