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Tag: malaria

The ER chaperone PfGRP170 is essential for asexual development and is linked to stress response in malaria parasites

The vast majority of malaria mortality is attributed to one parasite species: Plasmodium falciparum. Asexual replication of the parasite within the red blood cell is responsible for the pathology of the disease. In Plasmodium, the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is a central hub for protein folding and trafficking as well as stress response pathways. In this study, we tested the role of an uncharacterized ER protein, PfGRP170, in regulating these key functions by generating conditional mutants. Our data show that PfGRP170 localizes to the ER and is essential for asexual growth, specifically required for proper development of schizonts. PfGRP170 is essential for surviving heat shock, suggesting a critical role in cellular stress response. The data demonstrate that PfGRP170 interacts with the Plasmodium orthologue of the ER chaperone, BiP. Finally, we found that loss of PfGRP170 function leads to the activation of the Plasmodium eIF2α kinase, PK4, suggesting a specific role for this protein in this parasite stress response pathway.

Heather M. Kudyba, David W. Cobb, Manuel A. Fierro, Anat Florentin, Dragan Ljolje, Balwan Singh, Naomi W. Lucchi, Vasant Muralidharan. 2019. Cell Microbiol.:e13042. doi: 10.1111/cmi.13042

Distinct amino acid and lipid perturbations characterize acute versus chronic malaria

Chronic malaria is a major public health problem and significant challenge for disease eradication efforts. Despite its importance, the biological factors underpinning chronic malaria are not fully understood. Recent studies have shown that host metabolic state can influence malaria pathogenesis and transmission, but its role in chronicity is not known. Here, with the goal of identifying distinct modifications in the metabolite profiles of acute versus chronic malaria, metabolomics was performed on plasma from Plasmodium-infected humans and nonhuman primates with a range of parasitemias and clinical signs. In rhesus macaques infected with Plasmodium coatneyi, significant alterations in amines, carnitines, and lipids were detected during a high parasitemic acute phase and many of these reverted to baseline levels once a low parasitemic chronic phase was established. Plasmodium gene expression, studied in parallel in the macaques, revealed transcriptional changes in amine, fatty acid, lipid and energy metabolism genes, as well as variant antigen genes. Furthermore, a common set of amines, carnitines, and lipids distinguished acute from chronic malaria in plasma from human Plasmodium falciparum cases. In summary, distinct host-parasite metabolic environments have been uncovered that characterize acute versus chronic malaria, providing insights into the underlying host-parasite biology of malaria disease progression.

Regina Joice Cordy, Rapatbhorn Patrapuvich, Loukia N. Lili, Monica Cabrera-Mora, Jung-Ting Chien, Gregory K. Tharp, Manoj Khadka, Esmeralda V.S. Meyer, Stacey A. Lapp, Chester J. Joyner, AnaPatricia Garcia, Sophia Banton, ViLinh Tran, Viravarn Luvira, Siriwan Rungin, Teerawat Saeseu, Nattawan Rachaphaew, Suman B. Pakala, Jeremy D. DeBarry, MaHPIC Consortium, Jessica C. Kissinger, Eric A. Ortlund, Steven E. Bosinger, John W. Barnwell, Dean P. Jones, Karan Uppal, Shuzhao Li, Jetsumon Sattabongkot, Alberto Moreno, and Mary R. Galinski. 2019. JCI Insight.; 4(9). pii: 125156. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.125156.

Field evaluation of malaria malachite green loop-mediated isothermal amplification in health posts in Roraima state, Brazil

enrolled patietns and sample processing
Fig. 1 Summary of enrolled patients and sample processing


Microscopic detection of malaria parasites is the standard method for clinical diagnosis of malaria in Brazil. However, malaria epidemiological surveillance studies specifically aimed at the detection of low-density infection and asymptomatic cases will require more sensitive and field-usable tools. The diagnostic accuracy of the colorimetric malachite green, loop-mediated, isothermal amplification (MG-LAMP) assay was evaluated in remote health posts in Roraima state, Brazil.


Study participants were prospectively enrolled from health posts (healthcare-seeking patients) and from nearby villages (healthy participants) in three different study sites. The MG-LAMP assay and microscopy were performed in the health posts. Two independent readers scored the MG-LAMP tests as positive (blue/green) or negative (clear). Sensitivity and specificity of local microscopy and MG-LAMP were calculated using results of PET-PCR as a reference.


A total of 91 participants were enrolled. There was 100% agreement between the two MG-LAMP readers (Kappa = 1). The overall sensitivity and specificity of MG-LAMP were 90.0% (95% confidence interval (CI) 76.34-97.21%) and 94% (95% CI 83.76-98.77%), respectively. The sensitivity and specificity of local microscopy were 83% (95% CI 67.22-92.66%) and 100% (95% CI 93.02-100.00%), respectively. PET-PCR detected six mixed infections (infection with both Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax); two of these were also detected by MG-LAMP and one by microscopy. Microscopy did not detect any Plasmodium infection in the 26 healthy participants; MG-LAMP detected Plasmodium in five of these and PET-PCR assay detected infection in three. Overall, performing the MG-LAMP in this setting did not present any particular challenges.


MG-LAMP is a sensitive and specific assay that may be useful for the detection of malaria parasites in remote healthcare settings. These findings suggest that it is possible to implement simple molecular tests in facilities with limited resources.

Heather M. Kudyba, Jaime Louzada, Dragan Ljolje, Karl A. Kudyba, Vasant Muralidharan, Joseli Oliveira-Ferreira, and Naomi W. Lucchi. 2019. Malar J. 2019 Mar 25;18(1):98. doi: 10.1186/s12936-019-2722-1.

Lysyl-tRNA synthetase as a drug target in malaria and cryptosporidiosis

Malaria and cryptosporidiosis, caused by apicomplexan parasites, remain major drivers of global child mortality. New drugs for the treatment of malaria and cryptosporidiosis, in particular, are of high priority; however, there are few chemically validated targets. The natural product cladosporin is active against blood- and liver-stage Plasmodium falciparum and Cryptosporidium parvum in cell-culture studies. Target deconvolution in P. falciparum has shown that cladosporin inhibits lysyl-tRNA synthetase (PfKRS1). Here, we report the identification of a series of selective inhibitors of apicomplexan KRSs. Following a biochemical screen, a small-molecule hit was identified and then optimized by using a structure-based approach, supported by structures of both PfKRS1 and C. parvum KRS (CpKRS). In vivo proof of concept was established in an SCID mouse model of malaria, after oral administration (ED90 = 1.5 mg/kg, once a day for 4 d). Furthermore, we successfully identified an opportunity for pathogen hopping based on the structural homology between PfKRS1 and CpKRS. This series of compounds inhibit CpKRS and C. parvum and Cryptosporidium hominis in culture, and our lead compound shows oral efficacy in two cryptosporidiosis mouse models. X-ray crystallography and molecular dynamics simulations have provided a model to rationalize the selectivity of our compounds for PfKRS1 and CpKRS vs. (human) HsKRS. Our work validates apicomplexan KRSs as promising targets for the development of drugs for malaria and cryptosporidiosis.

Beatriz Baragaña, Barbara Forte, Ryan Choi, Stephen Nakazawa Hewitt, Juan A. Bueren-Calabuig, João Pedro Pisco, Caroline Peet, David M. Dranow, David A. Robinson, Chimed Jansen, Neil R. Norcross, Sumiti Vinayak, Mark Anderson, Carrie F. Brooks, Caitlin A. Cooper, Sebastian Damerow, Michael Delves, Karen Dowers, James Duffy, Thomas E. Edwards, Irene Hallyburton, Benjamin G. Horst, Matthew A. Hulverson, Liam Ferguson, María Belén Jiménez-Díaz, Rajiv S. Jumani, Donald D. Lorimer, Melissa S. Love, Steven Maher, Holly Matthews, Case W. McNamara, Peter Miller, Sandra O’Neill, Kayode K. Ojo, Maria Osuna-Cabello, Erika Pinto, John Post, Jennifer Riley, Matthias Rottmann, Laura M. Sanz, Paul Scullion, Arvind Sharma, Sharon M. Shepherd, Yoko Shishikura, Frederick R. C. Simeons, Erin E. Stebbins, Laste Stojanovski, Ursula Straschil, Fabio K. Tamaki, Jevgenia Tamjar, Leah S. Torrie, Amélie Vantaux, Benoît Witkowski, Sergio Wittlin, Manickam Yogavel, Fabio Zuccotto, Iñigo Angulo-Barturen, Robert Sinden, Jake Baum, Francisco-Javier Gamo, Pascal Mäser, Dennis E. Kyle, Elizabeth A. Winzeler, Peter J. Myler, Paul G. Wyatt, David Floyd, David Matthews, Amit Sharma, Boris Striepen, Christopher D. Huston, David W. Gray, Alan H. Fairlamb, Andrei V. Pisliakov, Chris Walpole, Kevin D. Read, Wesley C. Van Voorhis, and Ian H. Gilbert. 2019. PNAS,

Targeted Inhibition of Plasmodium falciparum Calcium-Dependent Protein Kinase 1 with a Constrained J Domain-Derived Disruptor Peptide

graphical abstract

To explore the possibility of constrained peptides to target Plasmodium-infected cells, we designed a J domain mimetic derived from Plasmodium falciparum calcium-dependent protein kinase 1 ( PfCDPK1) as a strategy to disrupt J domain binding and inhibit PfCDPK1 activity. The J domain disruptor (JDD) peptide was conformationally constrained using a hydrocarbon staple and was found to selectively permeate segmented schizonts and colocalize with intracellular merozoites in late-stage parasites. In vitro analyses demonstrated that JDD could effectively inhibit the catalytic activity of recombinant PfCDPK1 in the low micromolar range. Treatment of late-stage parasites with JDD resulted in a significant decrease in parasite viability mediated by a blockage of merozoite invasion, consistent with a primary effect of PfCDPK1 inhibition. To the best of our knowledge, this marks the first use of stapled peptides designed to specifically target a Plasmodium falciparum protein and demonstrates that stapled peptides may serve as useful tools for exploring potential antimalarial agents.

Briana R. Flaherty, Tienhuei G. Ho, Sven H. Schmidt, Friedrich W. Herberg, David S. Peterson, and Eileen J. Kennedy. 2019. ACS Infectious Diseases. DOI: 10.1021/acsinfecdis.8b0034

Priority use cases for antibody-detecting assays of recent malaria exposure as tools to achieve and sustain malaria elimination

Measurement of malaria specific antibody responses represents a practical and informative method for malaria control programs to assess recent exposure to infection. Technical advances in recombinant antigen production, serological screening platforms, and analytical methods have enabled the identification of several target antigens for laboratory based and point-of-contact tests. Questions remain as to how these serological assays can best be integrated into malaria surveillance activities to inform programmatic decision-making. This report synthesizes discussions from a convening at Institut Pasteur in Paris in June 2017 aimed at defining practical and informative use cases for serology applications and highlights five programmatic uses for serological assays including: documenting the absence of transmission; stratification of transmission; measuring the effect of interventions; informing a decentralized immediate response;  and testing and treating P. vivax hypnozoite carriers.

Greenhouse B, Daily J, Guinovart C, Goncalves B, Beeson J, Bell D, Chang MA, Cohen JM, Ding X, Domingo G, Eisele TP, Lammie PJ, Mayor A, Merienne N, Monteiro W, Painter J, Rodriguez I, White M, Drakeley C, Mueller I, Malaria Serology Convening. 2019. Gates Open Res.; doi: 10.12688/gatesopenres.12897.1. eCollection 2019.

Open-source discovery of chemical leads for next-generation chemoprotective antimalarials


To discover leads for next-generation chemoprotective antimalarial drugs, we tested more than 500,000 compounds for their ability to inhibit liver-stage development of luciferase-expressing Plasmodium spp. parasites (681 compounds showed a half-maximal inhibitory concentration of less than 1 micromolar). Cluster analysis identified potent and previously unreported scaffold families as well as other series previously associated with chemoprophylaxis. Further testing through multiple phenotypic assays that predict stage-specific and multispecies antimalarial activity distinguished compound classes that are likely to provide symptomatic relief by reducing asexual blood-stage parasitemia from those which are likely to only prevent malaria. Target identification by using functional assays, in vitro evolution, or metabolic profiling revealed 58 mitochondrial inhibitors but also many chemotypes possibly with previously unidentified mechanisms of action.

Yevgeniya Antonova-Koch, Stephan Meister, Matthew Abraham, Madeline R. Luth, Sabine Ottilie, Amanda K. Lukens, Tomoyo Sakata-Kato, Manu Vanaerschot, Edward Owen, Juan Carlos Jado, Steven P. Maher, Jaeson Calla, David Plouffe, Yang Zhong, Kaisheng Chen, Victor Chaumeau, Amy J. Conway, Case W. McNamara, Maureen Ibanez, Kerstin Gagaring, Fernando Neria Serrano, Korina Eribez, Cullin McLean Taggard, Andrea L. Cheung, Christie Lincoln, Biniam Ambachew, Melanie Rouillier, Dionicio Siegel, François Nosten, Dennis E. Kyle, Francisco-Javier Gamo, Yingyao Zhou, Manuel Llinás, David A. Fidock, Dyann F. Wirth, Jeremy Burrows, Brice Campo, Elizabeth A. Winzeler. 2018. Science; 362(6419):eaat9446.

Cryogenically preserved RBCs support gametocytogenesis of Plasmodium falciparum in vitro and gametogenesis in mosquitoes


Background: The malaria Eradication Research Agenda (malERA) has identified human-to-mosquito transmission of Plasmodium falciparum as a major target for eradication. The cornerstone for identifying and evaluating transmission in the laboratory is standard membrane feeding assays (SMFAs) where mature gametocytes of P. falciparum generated in vitro are offered to mosquitoes as part of a blood-meal. However, propagation of “infectious” gametocytes requires 10–12 days with considerable physico-chemical demands imposed on host RBCs and thus, “fresh” RBCs that are ≤ 1-week old post-collection are generally recommended. However, in addition to the costs, physico-chemical characteristics unique to RBC donors may confound reproducibility and interpretation of SMFAs. Cryogenic storage of RBCs (“cryo-preserved RBCs”) is accepted by European and US FDAs as an alternative to refrigeration (4 °C) for preserving RBC “quality” and while cryo-preserved RBCs have been used for in vitro cultures of other Plasmodia and the asexual stages of P. falciparum, none of the studies required RBCs to support parasite development for > 4 days.

Results: Using the standard laboratory strain, P. falciparum NF54, 11 SMFAs were performed with RBCs from four separate donors to demonstrate that RBCs cryo-preserved in the gaseous phase of liquid nitrogen (− 196 °C) supported gametocytogenesis in vitro and subsequent gametogenesis in Anopheles stephensimosquitoes. Overall levels of sporogony in the mosquito, as measured by oocyst and sporozoite prevalence, as well as oocyst burden, from each of the four donors thawed after varying intervals of cryopreservation (1, 4, 8, and 12 weeks) were comparable to using ≤ 1-week old refrigerated RBCs. Lastly, the potential for cryo-preserved RBCs to serve as a suitable alternative substrate is demonstrated for a Cambodian isolate of P. falciparum across two independent SMFAs.

Conclusions: Basic guidelines are presented for integrating cryo-preserved RBCs into an existing laboratory/insectary framework for P. falciparum SMFAs with significant potential for reducing running costs while achieving greater reliability. Lastly, scenarios are discussed where cryo-preserved RBCs may be especially useful in enhancing the understanding and/or providing novel insights into the patterns and processes underlying human-to-mosquito transmission.

Ashutosh K. Pathak, Justine C. Shiau, Matthew B. Thomas and Courtney C. Murdock. 2018. Malaria Journal; 17:457.

Phloroglucinols from the Roots of Garcinia dauphinensis and Their Antiproliferative and Antiplasmodial Activities

Graphica abstract


Garcinia dauphinensis is a previously uninvestigated endemic plant species of Madagascar. The new phloroglucinols dauphinols A–F and 3′-methylhyperjovoinol B (17) and six known phloroglucinols (813) together with tocotrienol 14 and the three triterpenoids 1517 were isolated from an ethanolic extract of G. dauphinensis roots using various chromatographic techniques. The structures of the isolated compounds were elucidated by NMR, MS, optical rotation, and ECD data. Theoretical ECD spectra and specific rotations for 2 were calculated and compared to experimental data in order to assign its absolute configuration. Among the compounds tested, 1showed the most promising growth inhibitory activity against A2870 ovarian cancer cells, with IC50= 4.5 ± 0.9 μM, while 2 had good antiplasmodial activity against the Dd2 drug-resistant strain of Plasmodium falciparum, with IC50 = 0.8 ± 0.1 μM.

Rolly G. Fuentes, Kirk C. Pearce, Yongle Du, Andriamalala Rakotondrafara, Ana L. Valenciano, Maria B. Cassera, Vincent E. Rasamison, T. Daniel Crawford, and David G. I. Kingston. 2018. Journal of Natural Products.
DOI: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.8b00379

A recombinant antibody against Plasmodium vivax UIS4 for distinguishing replicating from dormant liver stages


Background:Plasmodium vivax is the most geographically widespread of the human malaria parasites, causing 50,000 to 100,000 deaths annually. Plasmodium vivax parasites have the unique feature of forming dormant liver stages (hypnozoites) that can reactivate weeks or months after a parasite-infected mosquito bite, leading to new symptomatic blood stage infections. Efforts to eliminate P. vivax malaria likely will need to target the persistent hypnozoites in the liver. Therefore, research on P. vivax liver stages necessitates a marker for clearly distinguishing between actively replicating parasites and dormant hypnozoites. Hypnozoites possess a densely fluorescent prominence in the parasitophorous vacuole membrane (PVM) when stained with antibodies against the PVM-resident protein Upregulated in Infectious Sporozoites 4 (PvUIS4), resulting in a key feature recognizable for quantification of hypnozoites. Thus, PvUIS4 staining, in combination with the characteristic small size of the parasite, is currently the only hypnozoite-specific morphological marker available.

Results: Here, the generation and validation of a recombinant monoclonal antibody against PvUIS4 (α-rUIS4 mAb) is described. The variable heavy and light chain domains of an α-PvUIS4 hybridoma were cloned into murine IgG1 and IgK expression vectors. These expression plasmids were co-transfected into HEK293 cells and mature IgG was purified from culture supernatants. It is shown that the α-rUIS4 mAb binds to its target with high affinity. It reliably stains the schizont PVM and the hypnozoite-specific PVM prominence, enabling the visual differentiation of hypnozoites from replicating liver stages by immunofluorescence assays in different in vitro settings, as well as in liver sections from P. vivax infected liver-chimeric mice. The antibody functions reliably against all four parasite isolates tested and will be an important tool in the identification of the elusive hypnozoite.

Conclusions: The α-rUIS4 mAb is a versatile tool for distinguishing replicating P. vivax liver stages from dormant hypnozoites, making it a valuable resource that can be deployed throughout laboratories worldwide.

Carola Schafer, Nicholas Dambrauskas, Ryan W. Steel, Sara Carbonetti, Vorada Chuenchob, Erika L. Flannery, Vladimir Vigdorovich, Brian G. Oliver, Wanlapa Roobsoong, Steven P. Maher, Dennis Kyle, Jetsumon Sattabongkot, Stefan H. I. Kappe, Sebastian A. Mikolajczak and D. Noah Sather. 2018. Malaria Journal; 17:370.