The study provides details that will help scientists design better vaccines and drug treatments for the strain, Plasmodium vivax.
"More people live at risk of infection by this strain of malaria than any other," said senior author Niraj Tolia, PhD, assistant professor of molecular microbiology and of biochemistry and molecular biophysics. "We now are using what we have learned to create vaccines tailored to stop the infectious process by preventing the parasite from attaching to red blood cells."
The finding appears Jan. 9 in PLOS Pathogens.
The World Health Organization estimates there were more than 200 million malaria cases in 2012. The deadliest form of malaria, Plasmodium falciparum, is most prevalent in Africa. But P. vivax can hide in the liver, re-emerging years later to trigger new infections, and is harder to prevent, diagnose and treat.
Earlier studies had suggested that one P. vivax protein binds to one protein on the surface of red blood cells. Tolia's new study reveals that the binding is a two-step process that involves two copies of a parasite protein coming together like tongs around two copies of a host protein.
"It's a very intricate and chemically strong interaction that was not easily understood before," Tolia said. "We have had hints that other forms of malaria, including the African strain, may be binding in a similar fashion to host cells, but this is one of the first definitive proofs of this kind of attack."
Tolia suspects blocking any of the proteins with drugs or vaccines will stop the infectious process.
"For example, some people have a mutation that eliminates the protein on red blood cell surfaces that P. vivax binds to, and they tend to be resistant to the parasite," he said. "This is why this strain isn't prevalent in Africa — evolutionary pressure has caused most of the populations there to stop making this protein."
Tolia also found evidence that other people with immunity to P. vivax have developed naturally occurring antibodies that attach to a key part of the parasite's binding protein, preventing infection.
"The parasite protein is very large, and human antibodies bind to it at many different points along its length," Tolia explained. "We have observed that the ones that are most effective so far are the antibodies that bind to the protein at the region highlighted by our new research."
This research was made possible by funding from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (R01 080792), the Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr. Foundation, an American Heart Association postdoctoral fellowship, and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (DGE-1143954).
Batchelor JD, Malpede BM, Omattage NS, DeKoster GT, Heinzler-Wildman KA, Tolia NH. Red blood cell invasion by Plasmodium vivax: structural basis for DBP engagement of DARC. PLOS Pathogens, online Jan. 9, 2014.
Washington University School of Medicine's 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.
Michael C. Purdy | EurekAlert!
Organ-on-a-chip mimics heart's biomechanical properties
23.02.2017 | Vanderbilt University
Researchers identify cause of hereditary skeletal muscle disorder
22.02.2017 | Klinikum der Universität München
In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport
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”...
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...
Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...
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...
13.02.2017 | Event News
10.02.2017 | Event News
09.02.2017 | Event News
24.02.2017 | Life Sciences
24.02.2017 | Life Sciences
24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News