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Malaria, potato famine pathogen share surprising trait

sequence is a group of about 20 to 30 amino acids on a protein secreted by the parasite. This sequence contains instructions on how to enter, and therefore start infecting, a plant or animal cell.

In laboratory experiments, the researchers infected human red blood cells with the modified malarial pathogen.

Results showed that malaria proteins could just as effectively enter and infect a cell when it contained the P. infestans leader sequence instead of its own.

"Our findings show that very distinct microbes can share similar strategies for delivering toxic proteins to their targets," Kamoun said.

About a year and a half ago, Kamoun and his group at Ohio State read studies conducted by the Northwestern researchers that described the leader sequence of the malaria parasite. The similarity between this and the leader sequence of P. infestans was remarkable, he said.

"So we decided to collaborate and see if the sequences were not just similar, but also functionally the same," he said. "It turned out that they were. But although the mechanism of getting virulence proteins into a host cell is very similar, the infection-causing proteins that are delivered to a host are completely different."

To Kamoun's knowledge, this is the first paper to show that such dissimilar pathogens of this type - both are eukaryotic organisms share a remarkably similar trait. He and his colleagues aren't sure how to explain this phenomenon, as these pathogens belong to distinctly different evolutionary groups.


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Contact: Sophien Kamoun
Kamoun.1@osu.edu
330-263-3847
Ohio State University
26-May-2006


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