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Speaker Dr Josie Ferreira, Research Fellow, ISMB, Birkbeck, University of London

Title Luminal helices and microtubule giants revealed in the malaria parasite by in situ electron cryo tomography

Host Joe Atherton


Abstract To ensure disease transmission, the malaria parasite undergoes multiple rounds of metamorphosis, as it entirely alters its cell morphology to promote uptake and establishment in the mosquito vector and human host. Each round of cellular transformations is driven by an important cytoskeletal component: the cell’s microtubules. Microtubules have been studied extensively throughout the eukaryotic tree of life and their architecture and composition are established to be highly conserved. However, using focussed ion beam milling and electron cryo tomography, we recently studied four distinct stages in the Plasmodium parasite’s life cycle. This revealed that the parasite has microtubules which are evolved to undertake specific roles in each life cycle stage and have structures that are strikingly different from the well-studied canonical microtubules in vertebrates. From liberal distributions in protofilament number to the addition of an interrupted luminal helix; the parasite’s microtubules change throughout its life cycle. This provides unanticipated insights into the extreme adaptations undergone by this intracellular parasite within its multiple ecological niches.

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