Malaria is one of the worlds most deadly infectious diseases and results in almost a million deaths each year, largely in children under the age of five in Sub-Saharan Africa. Outside Africa, malaria is responsible for a large number of cases in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil, Middle East, and in some areas of Asia . According to the World Health Organization, there was an estimated 655, 000 deaths from malaria in 2012. Malaria is caused by a eukaryotic Apicomplexan parasite, Plasmodium, which has three distinct life cycles occurring in the midgut of the female Anopheles mosquito, the liver of the human host, and human erythrocytes. When the parasite infects the erythrocyte, some induced cell host modifications are made in order to accommodate growth. During its intra-erythrocytic life cycle, the malaria parasite traffics numerous proteins to a set of unique destinations within its own plasma membrane including the digestive vacuole, the apicoplast, rhoptries, and micronemes. Vesicular transport is an essential process in eukaryotic cells. This coordinated process is responsible for moving thousands of proteins between compartments within the cell. Essential to the targeting and fusion of protein transport vesicles in eukaryotes are SNAREs (soluble N-ethylmaleimide sensitive factor attachment protein receptors), a family of fusogenic proteins that are localized to distinct intracellular compartments . Studies performed in our laboratory have identified 18 proteins putatively belonging to the PfSNARE family . To date the exact role of PfSNAREs in the unique trafficking pathways of malaria is undetermined. Of particular interest to our study is PfVAMP8. In model eukaryotic organisms, VAMP8 containing vesicles deliver cargo to lysosomes and are involved in endocytosis. The food vacuole of the parasite is very similar to that of lysosomes and is essential to parasite survival. The study aims to identify the organelle(s) to which PfVAMP8 is localized and characterize membrane-association properties of this parasiteâ€™s R-SNARE protein. We believe that PfVAMP8 would localize to unique compartments in the parasite protein network flow. An in depth understanding of its mechanisms and localizations could be a key in developing novel anti-malarials. This study aims to identify the organelle(s) to which PfVAMP8 are localized, determine the trafficking determinants of this protein and determine this proteinsâ€™ expression and membrane association during the intra-erythrocytic stages of Plasmodium falciparum. Our immunofluorescence studies with known biological markers reveals that, PfVAMP8 passes through the endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi, and localizes to the food vacuole during trophozoite and schizont stage. Further characterization of the membrane association properties of the protein in this study reveals that PfVAMP8 is a soluble integral membrane protein with amphipathic characteristics.
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Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences
Molecular Biology and Microbiology
Dissertations, Academic -- Medicine; Medicine -- Dissertations, Academic
Length of Campus-only Access
Honors in the Major Thesis
Ferreira, Katherine, "Understanding the Role of Plasmodium falciparum VAMP8 SNARE Homologue" (2013). HIM 1990-2015. 1826.