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Achieving the goal of malaria elimination will depend on targeting Plasmodium pathways essential across all life stages. Here we identify a lipid kinase, phosphatidylinositol-4-OH kinase (PI(4)K), as the target of imidazopyrazines, a new antimalarial compound class that inhibits the intracellular development of multiple Plasmodium species at each stage of infection in the vertebrate host. Imidazopyrazines demonstrate potent preventive, therapeutic, and transmission-blocking activity in rodent malaria models, are active against blood-stage field isolates of the major human pathogens P. falciparum and P. vivax, and inhibit liver-stage hypnozoites in the simian parasite P. cynomolgi. We show that imidazopyrazines exert their effect through inhibitory interaction with the ATP-binding pocket of PI(4)K, altering the intracellular distribution of phosphatidylinositol-4-phosphate. Collectively, our data define PI(4)K as a key Plasmodium vulnerability, opening up new avenues of target-based discovery to identify drugs with an ideal activity profile for the prevention, treatment and elimination of malaria.
BACKGROUND - Malaria parasites undergo complex developmental transitions within the mosquito vector. A commonly used laboratory model for studies of mosquito-malaria interaction is the rodent parasite, P. berghei. Anopheles funestus is a major malaria vector in sub-Saharan Africa but has received less attention than the sympatric species, Anopheles gambiae. The imminent completion of the A. funestus genome sequence will provide currently lacking molecular tools to describe malaria parasite interactions in this mosquito, but previous reports suggested that A. funestus is not permissive for P. berghei development.
METHODS - An A. funestus population was generated in the laboratory by capturing female wild mosquitoes in Mali, allowing them to oviposit, and rearing the eggs to adults. These F1 progeny of wild mosquitoes were allowed to feed on mice infected with a fluorescent P. berghei strain. Fluorescence microscopy was used to track parasite development inside the mosquito, salivary gland sporozoites were tested for infectivity to mice, and parasite development in A. funestus was compared to A. gambiae.
RESULTS - P. berghei oocysts were detectable on A. funestus midguts by 7 days post-infection. By 18-20 days post-infection, sporozoites had invaded the median and distal lateral lobes of the salivary glands, and hemocoel sporozoites were observed in the hemolymph. Mosquitoes were capable of infecting mice via bite, demonstrating that A. funestus supports the complete life cycle of P. berghei. In a random sample of wild mosquito genotypes, A. funestus prevalence of infection and the characteristics of parasite development were similar to that observed in A. gambiae-P. berghei infections.
CONCLUSIONS - The data presented in this study establish an experimental laboratory model for Plasmodium infection of A. funestus, an important vector of human malaria. Studying A. funestus-Plasmodium interactions is now feasible in a laboratory setting. This information lays the groundwork for exploitation of the awaited genome sequence of A. funestus.
BACKGROUND - Chemosensory signal transduction guides the behavior of many insects, including Anopheles gambiae, the major vector for human malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. To better understand the molecular basis of mosquito chemosensation we have used whole transcriptome RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) to compare transcript expression profiles between the two major chemosensory tissues, the antennae and maxillary palps, of adult female and male An. gambiae.
RESULTS - We compared chemosensory tissue transcriptomes to whole body transcriptomes of each sex to identify chemosensory enhanced genes. In the six data sets analyzed, we detected expression of nearly all known chemosensory genes and found them to be highly enriched in both olfactory tissues of males and females. While the maxillary palps of both sexes demonstrated strict chemosensory gene expression overlap, we observed acute differences in sensory specialization between male and female antennae. The relatively high expression levels of chemosensory genes in the female antennae reveal its role as an organ predominately assigned to chemosensation. Remarkably, the expression of these genes was highly conserved in the male antennae, but at much lower relative levels. Alternatively, consistent with a role in mating, the male antennae displayed significant enhancement of genes involved in audition, while the female enhancement of these genes was observed, but to a lesser degree.
CONCLUSIONS - These findings suggest that the chemoreceptive spectrum, as defined by gene expression profiles, is largely similar in female and male An. gambiae. However, assuming sensory receptor expression levels are correlated with sensitivity in each case, we posit that male and female antennae are perceptive to the same stimuli, but possess inverse receptive prioritizations and sensitivities. Here we have demonstrated the use of RNA-seq to characterize the sensory specializations of an important disease vector and grounded future studies investigating chemosensory processes.
The olfactory-driven blood-feeding behaviour of female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes is the primary transmission mechanism by which the arboviruses causing dengue and yellow fevers affect over 40 million individuals worldwide. Bioinformatics analysis has been used to identify 131 putative odourant receptors from the A. aegypti genome that are likely to function in chemosensory perception in this mosquito. Comparison with the Anopheles gambiae olfactory subgenome demonstrates significant divergence of the odourant receptors that reflects a high degree of evolutionary activity potentially resulting from their critical roles during the mosquito life cycle. Expression analyses in the larval and adult olfactory chemosensory organs reveal that the ratio of odourant receptors to antennal glomeruli is not necessarily one to one in mosquitoes.
Defects in cilia are associated with diseases and developmental abnormalities. Proper cilia function is required for sonic hedgehog and PDGFRalpha signaling in mammals and for insulin-like growth factor (IGF) signaling in Caenorhabditis elegans. However, the role of cilia in these pathways remains unknown. To begin addressing this issue, we are characterizing putative cilia proteins in C. elegans that are predicted to have regulatory rather than structural functions. In this report, we characterized the novel cilia protein T28F3.6 (IFTA-2, intraflagellar transport associated protein 2), which is homologous to the mammalian Rab-like 5 protein. We found that, unlike the intraflagellar transport (IFT) genes, disruption of ifta-2 does not result in overt cilia assembly abnormalities, nor did it cause chemotaxis or osmotic avoidance defects typical of cilia mutants. Rather, ifta-2 null mutants have an extended lifespan phenotype and are defective in dauer formation. Our analysis indicates that these phenotypes result from defects in the DAF-2 (insulin-IGF-1-like) receptor signaling pathway in ciliated sensory neurons. We conclude that IFTA-2 is not a ciliogenic protein but rather is a regulator of specific cilia signaling activities. Interestingly, a mammalian IFTA-2 homolog is also found in cilia, raising the possibility that its function has been conserved during evolution.
The completion of the Plasmodium falciparum clone 3D7 genome provides a basis on which to conduct comparative proteomics studies of this human pathogen. Here, we applied a high-throughput proteomics approach to identify new potential drug and vaccine targets and to better understand the biology of this complex protozoan parasite. We characterized four stages of the parasite life cycle (sporozoites, merozoites, trophozoites and gametocytes) by multidimensional protein identification technology. Functional profiling of over 2,400 proteins agreed with the physiology of each stage. Unexpectedly, the antigenically variant proteins of var and rif genes, defined as molecules on the surface of infected erythrocytes, were also largely expressed in sporozoites. The detection of chromosomal clusters encoding co-expressed proteins suggested a potential mechanism for controlling gene expression.