The Department of Biomedicine

BBB seminar: Inari Kursula

Illuminating the malaria parasite gliding motor using hybrid structural biology

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Inari Kursula
Department of Biomedicine, University of Bergen and Faculty of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, University of Oulu, Finland

The malaria parasites (Plasmodium spp.) move and invade their host cells with the help of an unconventional actin-myosin motor, which enables them to glide extremely rapidly without the aid of any external protrusions or detectable changes in the cell shape. Although most components of the molecular machinery driving parasite motility are known, the structure and the mechanism of the entire motor complex, known as the glideosome, are not understood. Our work aims at shedding light on the structure and function of the glideosome and understanding the evolution of actin-myosin motors. The components of the glideosome are either unique to this class of parasites or highly divergent from all other eukaryotes. Thus, we hope to make use of the knowledge gained for drug and vaccine development against malaria. 

To understand the function of the motor components, we use a broad range of structural biology and biochemical/biophysical methods. To date, we have mainly characterized the parasite actins and a number of actin regulatory proteins. In the future, we are aiming at a more holistic view by looking into larger complexes, myosins, and membrane interactions of the glideosome complex. An overview of our project and methods as well as a few highlights of our recent and ongoing work will be presented.

Chairperson: Aurora Martinez, Department of Biomedicine