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 Tiny Helpers that Clean Cells
14.08.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Light-controlled molecules: Scientists develop new recycling strategy
14.08.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

Im Focus: Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...

Im Focus: World record: Fastest 3-D tomographic images at BESSY II

The quality of materials often depends on the manufacturing process. In casting and welding, for example, the rate at which melts solidify and the resulting microstructure of the alloy is important. With metallic foams as well, it depends on exactly how the foaming process takes place. To understand these processes fully requires fast sensing capability. The fastest 3D tomographic images to date have now been achieved at the BESSY II X-ray source operated by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin.

Dr. Francisco Garcia-Moreno and his team have designed a turntable that rotates ultra-stably about its axis at a constant rotational speed. This really depends...

Im Focus: A molecular switch may serve as new target point for cancer and diabetes therapies

If certain signaling cascades are misregulated, diseases like cancer, obesity and diabetes may occur. A mechanism recently discovered by scientists at the Leibniz- Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP) in Berlin and at the University of Geneva has a crucial influence on such signaling cascades and may be an important key for the future development of therapies against these diseases. The results of the study have just been published in the prestigious scientific journal 'Molecular Cell'.

Cell growth and cell differentiation as well as the release and efficacy of hormones such as insulin depend on the presence of lipids. Lipids are small...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

2018 Work Research Conference

25.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Can radar replace stethoscopes?

14.08.2018 | Medical Engineering

The end-Cretaceous extinction unleashed modern shark diversity

14.08.2018 | Life Sciences

Light-controlled molecules: Scientists develop new recycling strategy

14.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>