Monday, February 13, 2012

Current reading: Post-translational modifications in Plasmodium: More than you think!

Today's lunch time reading (performed at a nice Korean restaurant) was a Review in Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology.  The PubMed abstract can be found here.
This paper is an excellent review of what we currently know about the regulation of Plasmodium species.  Unsurprisingly, from what I have learned about this organism so far, there seem to be more questions than answers.  However, we know that these parasites can regulate themselves by phosphorylation, ubiquitination, acetylation, methylation and lipidation, just like other eukaryotes.
The differences highlighted by this paper are in how these processes are regulated.  For example, the parasites lack MAP kinases and tyrosine kinases similar to other eukaryotic ones.  These kinases are so conserved in every organism I've ever looked at that I assumed they were the same in all species.  Despite the apparent absence of these incredibly important kinases, phosphorylation is still very important to Plasmodium since their growth cycles can be halted by treating them with certain kinase inhibitors.  It will be interesting to see what kinases are important, and if these kinases are present in the host organisms, as parasite-specific kinases would make very interesting drug targets!

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