Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Malaria-resistant mosquitoes battle disease with 'molecular warhead'

09.07.2007
A team led by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers has discovered why some mosquitoes are resistant to malaria, a finding that may one day help fight a disease that afflicts and kills millions of people.

A team led by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers has discovered why some mosquitoes are resistant to malaria, a finding that may one day help fight a disease that afflicts and kills millions of people.

The researchers focused on TEP1, a protein in the mosquito’s immune system. When a mosquito is infected with a parasite that causes malaria, a biochemical reaction is triggered that physically transforms TEP1 into an active state capable of grabbing on to the parasite’s surface and targeting it for termination.

In a study appearing online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the UT Southwestern group used a method called X-ray crystallography to uncover TEP1’s three-dimensional structure. They found that the genetic differences between mosquitoes that are resistant and those that are susceptible to the parasite mostly manifest in a region of the TEP1 protein dubbed “the warhead,” the portion that grabs the malarial parasite.

“TEP1 is a scout that finds the enemy, in this case malarial parasites, then plants a homing signal on the enemy and calls in the air strike,” said Dr. Richard Baxter, a postdoctoral researcher in biochemistry at UT Southwestern and lead author of the study.

Understanding how some mosquitoes can fend off malaria might someday lead to reducing or even eliminating the mosquito’s capacity to transmit the devastating disease, Dr. Baxter said.

“We have been trying to cure people of malaria for over a century,” said Dr. Baxter, who also is a research associate with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at UT Southwestern. “Only recently have people started to think about curing mosquitoes of malaria.”

Nobel laureate Dr. Johann Deisenhofer, who is senior author of the study, said, “This finding opened my eyes to the fact that mosquitoes are almost as unhappy about malaria as we are. “They try to get rid of it.” Dr. Johann Deisenhofer is a professor of biochemistry, an HHMI investigator and holder of the Virginia and Edward Linthicum Distinguished Chair in Biomolecular Science. He was awarded the 1988 Nobel Prize in chemistry for using X-ray crystallography to describe the structure of a protein involved in photosynthesis.

Malaria is one of the leading causes of disease and death in the world. About 350 million to 500 million worldwide are infected with malaria, according to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Each year more than one million die, primarily children in Africa.

About 40 percent of the world’s population lives in areas with mosquitoes that carry malaria. Prevention and treatment have been hampered by cost, the rise of drug-resistant malarial parasites, and the lack of a vaccine.

Malaria is caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium, which are spread to humans through mosquito bites. A mosquito picks up the parasite via infected human blood. The parasite then embeds itself in the mosquito’s gut wall and reproduces, eventually passing to the salivary glands. The mosquito then infects new people during subsequent bites.

The research group’s French collaborators, using a Plasmodium species that infects rodents, previously determined that the gene for TEP1 occurs in two forms, or alleles. One, called TEP1r, occurs in mosquitoes that are resistant to malarial infection. Another, TEP1s, is found in mosquitoes that are vulnerable to infection.

The TEP1r and TEP1s proteins are 93 percent genetically identical, and the new study, in which TEP1r was structurally analyzed, shows that the differences cluster around the warhead area, Dr. Baxter said. This finding reinforces the theory that the warhead is a key element of the overall immune response to malaria in mosquitoes.

In future studies, the researchers will genetically manipulate the warhead to study its binding properties, Dr. Baxter said. In addition, further research is needed to determine what other elements of the mosquito’s immune system are activated once TEP1 binds to an invader.

Aline McKenzie | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/receivenews
http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/utsw/cda/dept353744/files/392511.html

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Chances to treat childhood dementia
24.07.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht World first: Massive thrombosis removed during early pregnancy
20.07.2017 | Universitätsspital Bern

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>