Research

Skeleton of malaria parasites

Malaria parasites consist of only a single cell, but they carry beneath their surface a complex system of membranes that is called the inner membrane complex (IMC).

Gametocytes are the precursors of the sexual stages of malaria parasites. They circulate in people's blood. When taken up by the mosquito and reaching the mosquito`s gut, they develop into male and female gametes – and reproduce sexually.
Gametocytes are the precursors of the sexual stages of malaria parasites. They circulate in people's blood. When taken up by the mosquito and reaching the mosquito`s gut, they develop into male and female gametes – and reproduce sexually. The membranes of the "inner membrane complex" (red) in gametocytes appear to be glued together revealing ring-like structures (green) (Photography: Maya Kono).

This structure determines the shape of the parasite on one hand, and on the other it essentially contributes to its motility and enables it to invade our hepatocytes (liver cells) and erythrocytes (red blood cells). Although this membrane system has been known from microscopy for decades, its molecular components have not been studied in detail. We found that a far larger repertoire of proteins than presently known is embedded in these membranes, and that the same proteins take on different tasks, depending on the parasite`s developmental stage.

 


Kono M. et al., Mol Biol Evol 2012, 29:2113-2132

Maya Kono, Klemens Engelberg, Dipto Sinha, Tim Gilberger und externe Kooperationspartner (s. Publikation)