NIH study identifies potential new target for malaria drug development
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health and other institutions have deciphered the role of a key protein that the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum uses to obtain nutrients while infecting red blood cells. Their study appears in Nature Microbiology.
According to the World Health Organization , in 2016 there were an estimated 216 million malaria cases and 445,000 malaria deaths. P. falciparum is responsible for most malaria-related deaths globally.
The parasite remodels the red blood cell it infects to obtain nutrients. During this process, the parasite secretes hundreds of proteins that need to be transported from the vacuole, the compartment in which the parasite resides, to the interior of the cell. Previous studies have uncovered the function of one of the proteins in the PTEX group to reshape proteins for transport, but the function of other proteins in the group have not been well understood.
In the current study, researchers analyzing blood cell cultures from healthy people. The researchers hope that their discovery will lead to the development of new drugs to prevent formation of the channel and block the transport of nutrients and proteins to the parasite.
Joshua Zimmerberg, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Section on Integrative Biophysics at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, is available for comment.
Garten, M. EXP2 is a nutrient-permeable channel in the vacuolar membrane of Plasmodium and is essential for protein export via PTEX. Nature Microbiology. 10.1038/s41564-018-0222-7
About the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD): NICHD conducts and supports research in the United States and throughout the world on fetal, infant and child development; maternal, child and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. For more information, visit NICHD’s website.
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