Protein trafficking and cellular architecture
The malaria parasite spends part of its life-cycle inside the erythrocytes of its human host. The parasite modifies the erythrocyte to promote its own growth and survival. To do so, the intracellular parasite has to export proteins beyond the boundaries of its own plasma membrane.
The molecular machinery and the mechanisms of transport involved in the external transport system are not yet understood, although it appears that the signals directing trafficking in the malaria parasite differ from those in mammalian systems. Characterisation of the components of the secretory pathway in the malaria parasite may lead to the development of novel antimalarial strategies.
Prof Tilley's laboratory uses cell biology, transfection and imaging techniques to identify and characterise the parasite components responsible for the unusual trafficking events and the sequences in exported polypeptides required for correct trafficking.
Electron tomography of the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. The rendered model shows the parasite and its exomembrane system in the host red blood cell
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