Research

Pumping stations for proteins

Malaria parasites stay inside erythrocytes (red blood cells) the longest time they spend in humans. There they reproduce asexually, and it is during this time that they cause disease. They fundamentally restructure their “host” cells and, for this purpose, need to secrete into them many different proteins.

Red blood cells containg a malaria parasite. Membranes are red, the nuclei of the parasite are shown in blue, and a protein that was transported from the parasite into the red blood cell is indicated by green dots (Photography: Tobias Spielmann).
Red blood cells containg a malaria parasite. Membranes are red, the nuclei of the parasite are shown in blue, and a protein that was transported from the parasite into the red blood cell is indicated by green dots (Photography: Tobias Spielmann).

We have shown that an entire complex of pumps is involved that pumps the proteins across membranes that surround the parasite and separate them from the interior of the red blood cell. It draws or pushes proteins in an unfolded state - as strings - through the membranes. It has not yet been established whether a single type of pump does it all or various pumps are used for different proteins instead. As transport of these proteins is essential to survival of the parasite – and for its pathogenic effect – every individual pump makes an excellent target for the development of new drugs.

 


Grüring C. et al., Cell Host & Microbe 2012, 12:717-729

Christof Grüring, Arlett Heiber, Florian Kruse, Sven Flemming, Hanno Schoeler, Tim Gilberger, Tobias Spielmann, and external cooperation partners (see publication)