This study, in the current issue of the journal Nature, accompanies an article detailing the completion of a major six-year $17.9-million genome-sequencing effort involving 185 researchers from the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia that sequenced the entire Plasmodium falciparum genome.
"This is the first instance that I know of where these proteomics studies have gone along side-by-side with the genome sequencing project," says TSRI Cell Biology Professor John Yates, Ph.D, who was the lead scientist involved in the proteomics effort, which identified the proteins in the single-celled Plasmodium that cause malaria.
These efforts will pay huge dividends in global healthcare if even a few of the newly identified proteins lead to the development of new malaria vaccines--and Yates and his colleagues found a total of more than 2,400 proteins.
"We don't exactly know the function of well over half of the proteins identified--we just know that they are there," says Laurence Florens, Ph.D., who is a research associate at TSRI and the lead author of the study.
Malaria is a nasty and often fatal disease, which may lead to kidney failure, seizures, permanent neurological damage, coma, and death. There are four types of Plasmodium parasites that cause the disease, of which falciparum is the most deadly. (See Supplemental Information: Malaria.)
Knowing which proteins are expressed by Plasmodium falciparum should help scientists understand how the pathogen causes malaria and, with luck, how to thwart it. That was the goal of the proteomics approach taken by Florens and Yates.