Wednesday, 2 May 2018

New understanding of parasite biology might help stop malaria transmission


Researchers made an important step toward deeper understanding of how malaria blood stage parasites turn the switch to become transmissible to other humans. This knowledge is fundamental for future research aiming to interrupt malaria transmission.

Whether a parasite continues to multiply or develops into a gametocyte is controlled by a molecular switch. A recent publication in Cell demonstrated that this switch responds to a lipid molecule present in human blood: lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC). Under high LPC concentrations, parasites multiply, consuming LPC to build new membranes. When LPC concentrations drop, as they do during acute infections, parasites convert into gametocytes to secure their transmission to the next human host.

Researchers at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) have now identified a parasite protein (GDV1) that plays a crucial role in activating the gametocyte conversion switch. The study in Science further shows that GDV1 is only produced in parasites destined to develop into gametocytes. In multiplying parasites, an inhibitory molecule prevents expression of GDV1.

See:

Michael Filarsky, Sabine A. Fraschka, Igor Niederwieser, Nicolas M. B. Brancucci, Eilidh Carrington, Elvira Carrió, Suzette Moes, Paul Jenoe, Richárd Bártfai, Till S. Voss. GDV1 induces sexual commitment of malaria parasites by antagonizing HP1-dependent gene silencingScience, 2018 DOI: 10.1126/science.aan6042

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

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