Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UMass Amherst Researchers Unravel Secrets of Parasites’ Replication

11.07.2012
A group of diseases that kill millions of people each year can’t be touched by antibiotics, and some treatment is so harsh the patient can’t survive it.
They’re caused by parasites, and for decades researchers have searched for a “magic bullet” to kill them without harming the patient. Now, a team of microbiologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has made an advance that could one day lead to a new weapon for fighting parasitic diseases such as African sleeping sickness, chagas disease and leishmaniasis.

In the cover article of the current issue of Eukaryotic Cell, parasitologists Michele Klingbeil, doctoral candidate Jeniffer Concepción-Acevedo and colleagues report the first detailed characterization of the way key proteins in the model parasite Trypanosoma brucei organize to replicate its mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Understanding this spatial and temporal coordination could mean a foot in the door to launch new attacks on one of the parasites’ essential cell processes, Klingbeil says.

She adds, “Parasites such as T. brucei, which causes African sleeping sickness, are not straightforward to treat because they’re too much like our own cells. Antibiotics are ineffective, so we treat them as invaders, with toxic chemicals. We are trying to find their weaknesses so we can exploit those and eventually develop a very selective, effective and acceptable treatment.”

Advances have not come easily, in part because these parasites have the most complex mitochondrial genome structure in nature, say Klingbeil and Concepción-Acevedo, the lead researcher on the project. To tackle it, they’ve focused on the trypanosome parasites’ extremely complex method of mtDNA replication, which involves kinetoplast DNA or kDNA. Its core components are very unlike DNA replication in animals and human hosts, Klingbeil says, “so if we can inhibit the replication process and take away the kDNA, the parasites will die. That’s one way we might be able to kill them.”

Trypanosomes’ kDNA is found as a nucleoid in the mitochondrion, where it holds many copies of catenated or networked minicircles and maxicircles that look like medieval chain mail under the microscope. These molecules pass information on to daughter cells via DNA polymerases whose job it is to copy all circles in the network. Trypanosomes have six mtDNA polymerases, while humans have just one.

To figure out how these trypanosomal polymerases know when to initiate DNA replication, Concepción-Acevedo set up immunofluorescence experiments focused on tracking a particular one, known as mtDNA polymerase ID (POLID). By fluorescent labeling the POLID protein and tracking it over space and time, Concepción-Acevedo quantified it and clarified its relationship to the overall replication process for the first time in a very discrete time window. The approach immediately paid off.

Klingbeil says, “As soon as Jeny began looking more closely at POLID localization she discovered a novel mechanism for how this protein participates in kDNA replication.” In response to kDNA changes during the replication cycle, POLID was dynamically redistributing, or changing location, from the mitochondrial matrix to concentrated foci around the kDNA, and co-localizing with replicating kDNA molecules.

“This had been hypothesized, but never seen before,” Klingbeil explains. It was amazing to witness. We visualized a mitochondrial replication protein undergoing dynamic localization for the first time, and linked it to DNA synthesis. No one had ever been able to do that in any mitochondrial DNA replication system before.”

This important discovery explains how POLID engages in kDNA replication and opens up new avenues to study and intervene in mitochondrial protein dynamics, say the two parasitologists. Their ultimate success would be to find a chemical to inhibit POLID from carrying out its role during replication and target all parasites with kDNA structures.

This work was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Support for Concepción-Acevedo also came from NSF’s Northeast Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate program.

Link to Eukaryotic Cell cover story: http://ec.asm.org/content/11/7.cover-expansion

Janet Lathrop | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umass.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Molecular motors run in unison in a metal-organic framework
20.03.2019 | University of Groningen

nachricht Active substance from plant slows down aggressive eye cancer
20.03.2019 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

Im Focus: Sussex scientists one step closer to a clock that could replace GPS and Galileo

Physicists in the EPic Lab at University of Sussex make crucial development in global race to develop a portable atomic clock

Scientists in the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough to a crucial element of an atomic clock - devices...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Molecular motors run in unison in a metal-organic framework

20.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Active substance from plant slows down aggressive eye cancer

20.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Novel sensor system improves reliability of high-temperature humidity measurements

20.03.2019 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>