Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Journal article: Comparative kinomics of the malaria pathogen and its relatives

Hot off the presses!
Structural and evolutionary divergence of eukaryotic protein kinases in Apicomplexa

It's a thorough paper, so I'll cover the highlights here.

Why we study apicomplexans

Apicomplexans are a group of related single-celled organisms which are exclusively parasitic. The best-known member is Plasmodium falciparum, which causes the most virulent form of malaria. Another well-studied species is Toxoplasma gondii, which primarily lives in cats but can infect most mammals.

It's a hugely diverse group. But overall, we know very little about them.

Our main motivation for studying apicomplexan proteins is to find what features make them distinct from human proteins, so we can then design drugs to target those features specifically -- the drug will identify and disable the parasite protein without the risk of affecting the host proteins, too. We study protein kinases, in particular, because a number of drugs have already been designed to inhibit kinases in cancer. The same or similar compounds could be used to treat parasitic diseases, potentially.