A potential drug target against a large family of parasites is identified

March 21, 2018

Apicomplexa form one of the largest and most diverse groups of obligate intracellular parasites, capable of infecting almost every kind of animal. It is estimated that between 1.2 and 10 million species exist, but only about 5,000-6,000 have been identified to date. These include Plasmodium (that causes malaria and about 440,000 deaths every year), Toxoplasma (that causes congenital disease and opportunistic infections in immunocompromised people), Babesia (that infects cattle), etc. Despite the global economic and health impact of these parasites, much of their biology is still unknown. For example, their surface is covered by glycoconjugates that are essential for their survival and infectivity, but little is known of the processes that lead to the synthesis of such molecules. In particular, one of the enzymes needed for the synthesis of important glycoconjugates had not yet been identified: the apicomplexan organisms do not have the GNA1 enzyme that fulfils this function in animals, plants and other eukaryotes.

In this study, the research team scanned the genome of P. falciparum and six other representative species of the phylum with the aim of identifying genes with GNA1-like activity. They identified and isolated a gene family with GNA1 function, which was confirmed by enzyme activity assays in vitro and by its capacity to restore growth in yeasts lacking GNA1. Furthermore, gene disruption by gene editing techniques such as CRISPR-CAS resulted in the absence of growth of parasites carrying the mutated gene, indicating that the protein is required for parasite viability. Sequence analyses indicate that the gene family has a single origin and evolved independently and parallel to its GNA1 counterpart (present in all other eukaryote organisms).

"Our results indicate that this enzyme is common to all members of the Apicomplexa phllyum and is likely essential for parasite growth. We are now analysing in detail its differences with human GNA1", explains lead author Marta Cova. "Because of its different origin, this enzyme could represent a good therapeutic target with selective action against all apicomplexans" adds Luis Izquierdo, ISGlobal researcher and coordinator of the study.
-end-


Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal)

Related Parasites Articles from Brightsurf:

When malaria parasites trick liver cells to let themselves in
A new study led by Maria Manuel Mota, group leader at Instituto de Medicina Molecular, now shows that malaria parasites secrete the protein EXP2 that is required for their entry into hepatocytes.

How deadly parasites 'glide' into human cells
A group of scientists led by EMBL Hamburg's Christian Löw provide insights into the molecular structure of proteins involved in the gliding movements through which the parasites causing malaria and toxoplasmosis invade human cells.

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.

Read More: Parasites News and Parasites Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.