Nav: Home

Scientists discover how malaria parasites import sugar

January 29, 2020

The consumption of sugar is a fundamental source of fuel in most living organisms. In the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, the uptake of glucose is essential to its life cycle. Like in other cells, sugar is transported into the parasite by a transport protein - a door designed for sugar to pass through the cell membrane. The details in how this door works has now been revealed.

"By elucidating the atomic structure of the sugar-transporting-protein PfHT1, we can better understand how glucose is transported into the parasite", says David Drew, Wallenberg Scholar at the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and leading the study at Stockholm University.

The main goal of the research is basic understanding of this important biological process, but with the potential for development of new antimalarial drugs. Malaria kills almost half a million persons each year, according to the WHO. By blocking the door for sugar, it has been shown that one can stop the growth of the malaria parasites.

"It's a long process from a compound with antimalarial activity to a drug that can be taken in the clinic. However, with this knowledge one can improve known antimalarial compounds so that they are more specific to the malarial transporter, so they do not have the side-effect of stopping sugar transport into our own cells. As such, this knowledge increases the likelihood that more specific compounds can be developed into a successful drug", says David Drew.

Despite million's years of evolution between parasites and humans the research show that glucose is surprisingly captured by the sugar transporting protein in malaria parasites in a similar manner as by transporters in the human brain.

"This conservation reflects the fundamental importance of sugar uptake - basically, nature hit on a winning concept and stuck with it", says David Drew.

However, the malaria parasite is more flexible. Other sugars, such as fructose, can also be imported. This flexibility could give a selective advantage to the malaria parasite so that it can survive under conditions when its preferred energy source glucose is unavailable.

"Every biochemistry student is taught about the process of sugar transport and it is exciting to add another important piece to this puzzle", says Lucie Delemotte, Associate Professor of Biophysics at KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Science for Life Laboratory Fellow, who collaborated on this project.
-end-
The article "The molecular basis for sugar import in malaria parasites" is published in the scientific journal Nature.

The research was funded by The Knut and Alice Wallenberg foundation and Science for Life Laboratory.

Stockholm University

Related Parasites Articles:

How malaria parasites withstand a fever's heat
The parasites that cause 200 million cases of malaria each year can withstand feverish temperatures that make their human hosts miserable.
New studies show how to save parasites and why it's important
An international group of scientists published a paper, Aug. 1, 2020, in a special edition of the journal Biological Conservation that lays out an ambitious global conservation plan for parasites.
More flowers and pollinator diversity could help protect bees from parasites
Having more flowers and maintaining diverse bee communities could help reduce the spread of bee parasites, according to a new study.
How Toxoplasma parasites glide so swiftly (video)
If you're a cat owner, you might have heard of Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan that sometimes infects humans through contact with contaminated feces in litterboxes.
Parasites and the microbiome
In a study of ethnically diverse people from Cameroon, the presence of a parasite infection was closely linked to the make-up of the gastrointestinal microbiome, according to a research team led by Penn scientists.
Clocking in with malaria parasites
Discovery of a malaria parasite's internal clock could lead to new treatment strategies.
Feeding bluebirds helps fend off parasites
If you feed the birds in your backyard, you may be doing more than just making sure they have a source of food: you may be helping baby birds give parasites the boot.
Scientists discover how malaria parasites import sugar
Researchers at Stockholm University has established how sugar is taken up by the malaria parasite, a discovery with the potential to improve the development of antimalarial drugs.
How malaria parasites become resistant to artemisinin antimalarial drugs
Malaria parasite mutations that inhibit the endocytoic appetite for a host's red blood cells may render them resistant to artemisinin, a widely used frontline antimalarial drug, according to a new study, which reveals a key molecular mechanism of drug resistance.
Study shows interactions between bacteria and parasites
A team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has completed the first study of the effects of a simultaneous infection with blood flukes (schistosomes) and the bacterium Helicobacter pylori -- a fairly common occurrence in some parts of the world.
More Parasites News and Parasites Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Warped Reality
False information on the internet makes it harder and harder to know what's true, and the consequences have been devastating. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around technology and deception. Guests include law professor Danielle Citron, journalist Andrew Marantz, and computer scientist Joy Buolamwini.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

How to Win Friends and Influence Baboons
Baboon troops. We all know they're hierarchical. There's the big brutish alpha male who rules with a hairy iron fist, and then there's everybody else. Which is what Meg Crofoot thought too, before she used GPS collars to track the movements of a troop of baboons for a whole month. What she and her team learned from this data gave them a whole new understanding of baboon troop dynamics, and, moment to moment, who really has the power.  This episode was reported and produced by Annie McEwen. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.