Navigation Links
UGA researchers find algal ancestor is key to how deadly pathogens proliferate
Date:12/12/2012

Athens, Ga. Long ago, when life on Earth was in its infancy, a group of small single-celled algae propelled themselves through the vast prehistoric ocean by beating whip like tails called flagella. It's a relatively unremarkable tale, except that now, more than 800 million years later, these organisms have evolved into parasites that threaten human health, and their algal past in the ocean may be the key to stopping them.

The organisms are called apicomplexa, but people know them better as the parasites that cause malaria and toxoplasmosis, serious diseases that infect millions of people every year, particularly in the developing world.

Now, researchers at the University of Georgia have discovered how an important structure inside these parasitic cells, which evolved from the algal ancestor millions of years ago, allows the cells to replicate and spread inside their hosts. Their research may soon lead to new therapies to halt these deadly pathogens before they cause disease.

In order to survive, the parasitic apicomplexa must invade an animal or human and force its way into the cells of its host. Once inside the host cell, the parasite begins to replicate into numerous daughter cells that in turn create additional copies, spreading the infection throughout the body.

In their study, published Dec. 11 in PLoS Biology, the researchers demonstrate that, during the process of replication, the parasite cell loads genetic material into its daughter cells via a strand of fiber that connects the two. By altering the genes for the components of the fiber in the laboratory, the researchers discovered that they could prevent parasite replication, making the parasite essentially harmless.

"These altered parasites can initially infect cells, but once we turn off the fiber genes, they cannot create new daughter cells and spread," said Maria Francia, lead author and doctoral candidate in the department of cellular biology. "Since it cannot replicate, the parasite eventually dies without causing serious harm."

This replication fiber appears to have evolved from the flagellum that ancient algae used to swim.

"This was a surprising finding," said Boris Striepen, a Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Investigator in UGA's Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases. "These parasites no longer use flagella to swim, but they have apparently repurposed this machinery to now organize the assembly of an invasive cell."

During evolution, flagella have been reengineered to serve numerous different functions in animals, including the sensors that allow us to see and smell. This study suggests that in these parasites structures used to invade host cells may be also derived from flagella.

Current treatments for diseases like malaria are threatened by the parasite becoming resistant to the drugs, so the need for new therapies is always pressing.

This algae-based connective fiber may serve as a promising target for anti-parasitic drug development, said Striepen, who is also a cellular biologist in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. He cautions, however, that more work must be done to learn how to manipulate or destroy the fiber in parasites that have infected humans or animals.

But both Striepen and Francia argue that scientists do well to pay close attention to the evolutionary history of the organisms they study.

"It is extremely important to understand the evolution of different organisms, but especially the evolution of pathogens," Striepen said. "The analysis of their evolution produces important opportunities to develop treatments, but it also helps us understand the basic structure of the pathogens that we must fight."


'/>"/>

Contact: Boris Striepen
striepen@uga.edu
706-583-0588
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Study by UC Santa Barbara researchers suggests that bacteria communicate by touch
2. UC Santa Barbara researchers discover genetic link between visual pathways of hydras and humans
3. Researchers attempt to solve problems of antibiotic resistance and bee deaths in one
4. UNH researchers find African farmers need better climate change data to improve farming practices
5. Ottawa researchers to lead world-first clinical trial of stem cell therapy for septic shock
6. Researchers uncover molecular pathway through which common yeast becomes fungal pathogen
7. Researchers print live cells with a standard inkjet printer
8. Columbia Engineering and Penn researchers increase speed of single-molecule measurements
9. Researchers reveal how a single gene mutation leads to uncontrolled obesity
10. Researchers discover novel therapy for Crohns disease
11. New paper by Notre Dame researchers describes method for cleaning up nuclear waste
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/1/2016)... 1, 2016 Favorable Government Initiatives ... and Criminal Identification to Boost Global Biometrics System Market ... TechSci Research report, " Global Biometrics Market By ... and Opportunities, 2011 - 2021", the global biometrics market ... on account of growing security concerns across various end ...
(Date:5/12/2016)... 2016 WearablesResearch.com , a brand of ... results from the Q1 wave of its quarterly wearables ... consumers, receptivity to a program where they would receive ... insurance company. "We were surprised to see ... Michael LaColla , CEO of Troubadour Research, "primarily because ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... First quarter 2016:   , Revenues amounted ... quarter of 2015 The gross margin was 49% (27) ... the operating margin was 40% (-13) Earnings per share ... operations was SEK 249.9 M (21.2) , Outlook   ... M. The operating margin for 2016 is estimated to ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... - FACIT has announced the creation of a ... Propellon Therapeutics Inc. ("Propellon" or "the Company"), to ... of first-in-class WDR5 inhibitors for the treatment of ... an exciting class of therapies, possessing the potential ... patients. Substantial advances have been achieved with the ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Charm Sciences, Inc. is ... has received AOAC Research Institute approval 061601. , “This is another AOAC-RI approval ... Bob Salter, Vice President of Regulatory and Industrial Affairs. “The Peel Plate methods ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... FRANCISCO , June 23, 2016   EpiBiome ... has secured $1 million in debt financing from Silicon ... ramp up automation and to advance its drug development ... its new facility. "SVB has been an ... beyond the services a traditional bank would provide," said ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... NC (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 , ... In ... University Hospital in Denmark detail how a patient who developed lymphedema after being treated ... tissue. The results could change the paradigm for dealing with this debilitating, frequent side ...
Breaking Biology Technology: