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Tag: Diego Huet

The mystery of massive mitochondrial complexes: the apicomplexan respiratory chain

The mitochondrial respiratory chain is an essential pathway in most studied eukaryotes due to its roles in respiration and other pathways that depend on mitochondrial membrane potential. Apicomplexans are unicellular eukaryotes whose members have an impact on global health. The respiratory chain is a drug target for some members of this group, notably the malaria-causing Plasmodium spp. This has motivated studies of the respiratory chain in apicomplexan parasites, primarily Toxoplasma gondii and Plasmodium spp. for which experimental tools are most advanced. Studies of the respiratory complexes in these organisms revealed numerous novel features, including expansion of complex size. The divergence of apicomplexan mitochondria from commonly studied models highlights the diversity of mitochondrial form and function across eukaryotic life.

Andrew E Maclean, Jenni A Hayward, Diego Huet, Giel G van Dooren, Lilach Sheiner. Trends Parasitol. 2022 Oct 24;S1471-4922(22)00219-7. doi: 10.1016/j.pt.2022.09.008. Online ahead of print.

Parasite Powerhouse: a Review of the Toxoplasma gondii Mitochondrion

Toxoplasma gondii is a member of the apicomplexan phylum, a group of single-celled eukaryotic parasites that cause significant human morbidity and mortality around the world. T. gondii harbors two organelles of endosymbiotic origin: a non-photosynthetic plastid, known as the apicoplast, and a single mitochondrion derived from the ancient engulfment of an α-proteobacterium. Due to excitement surrounding the novelty of the apicoplast, the T. gondii mitochondrion was, to a certain extent, overlooked for about two decades. However, recent work has illustrated that the mitochondrion is an essential hub of apicomplexan-specific biology. Development of novel techniques, such as cryo-electron microscopy, complexome profiling, and next-generation sequencing have led to a renaissance in mitochondrial studies. This review will cover what is currently known about key features of the T. gondii mitochondrion, ranging from its genome to protein import machinery and biochemical pathways. Particular focus will be given to mitochondrial features that diverge significantly from the mammalian host, along with discussion of this important organelle as a drug target.

Madelaine M. Usey, Diego Huet. J Eukaryot Microbiol. 2022 Mar 21;e12906. doi: 10.1111/jeu.12906.

Trainee Spotlight: Megna Tiwari

Megna Tiwari 

Megna Tiwari is a second-year Ph.D. trainee in the laboratory of Diego Huet. She is originally from Newport Beach, California and completed her undergraduate degree in Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology at the University of California, Riverside (UCR). While at UCR, she worked as an undergraduate researcher in the fungal genomics lab of Dr. Jason Stajich for 2 years and co-founded Women in STEM Engaging Riverside (WISER). After graduation, she worked as a blood bank lab technician at LifeStream Blood Bank where she screened for and routinely found blood samples positive for understudied pathogenic parasites. Her fascination with pathogenic parasites led her to seek a thesis-based Master of Science in Biology at California State University, Fullerton under the supervision of Dr. Veronica Jimenez. During this period, Megna worked on understanding the functional and structural relationship of mechanosensitive ion channels found in T. cruzi and cemented her passion for molecular parasitology.

Megna has been awarded a CTEGD T32 Training Fellowship. She currently serves as Vice-president of CTEGD’s Graduate Student Association and New Student Liaison for the Department of Cellular Biology’s Graduate Student Association.

Why did you choose UGA? 

My master’s research in parasitology reaffirmed my passion for research in unconventional parasitic pathogens. Therefore, I applied for doctoral programs that would allow me to remain in the field of cell and molecular parasitology and the CTEGD at UGA was the perfect place for me to obtain the best possible training as a parasitologist.

What is your research focus/project and why are you interested in the topic? 

The over-reaching research goal of the Huet lab is the investigation of the highly divergent metabolic adaptations of apicomplexans. My research interests in the lab have led me to study the role of the ATP synthase in the apicomplexan Toxoplasma gondii, the causative agent of toxoplasmosis. For my project, I am examining the role of apicomplexan-specific ATP synthase subunits and how they might contribute to the regulation of the ATP synthase function in the parasite.

What are your future professional plans?  

Following graduation from UGA, I hope to continue on for a postdoctoral research position in parasitology.

What do you hope to do for your capstone experience? 

For my capstone experience, I want to gain an outside perspective and understanding of foreign research culture that I can apply to my own research when I return to the CTEGD. 

What is your favorite thing about UGA and/or Athens? 

At the CTEGD, I love the collaborative nature. If I am trying to learn a new technique or understand new concepts, I am able to easily walk down the hall to a neighboring lab and get advice. In Athens, for entertainment, I love the endless craft beer scene and I love all the greenery and being able to hike gaps of the Appalachian trail!

 

Support trainees like Megna by giving today to the Center for Tropical & Emerging Global Diseases.

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mSphere of Influence: Tweaking Organellar Purification Approaches

Diego Huet studies the organelles involved in the metabolic adaptations of the apicomplexan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. In this mSphere of Influence article, he reflects on how the paper “Absolute quantification of matrix metabolites reveals the dynamics of mitochondrial metabolism” by Chen et al. (W. W. Chen, E. Freinkman, T. Wang, K. Birsoy, and D. M. Sabatini, Cell 166:1324–1337.e11, 2016, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2016.07.040) shaped his research by providing an approach for rapidly and specifically isolating mitochondria to probe the metabolism of these organelles.

Diego Huet .
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