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Biological Chemistry

Sugary Sites Promote Malarial Invasion

September 24, 2007 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 85, ISSUE 39

The malaria parasite infects a mosquito by clutching onto newly discovered sugar chains in the insect's gut. This revelation could lead to new strategies to thwart transmission of the deadly mosquito-borne disease to humans. Sulfated sugar chains called glycosaminoglycans line the human liver and mediate malarial infection. Independent teams led by Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena of Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute and Robert J. Linhardt of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute reveal that these chains also line the mosquito gut (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0706340104 and J. Biol. Chem. 2007, 282, 25376). Jacobs-Lorena's team further shows that blocking glycosaminoglycan production in mosquitoes prevents parasites from taking hold. Because infected mosquitoes inject parasite-laden saliva into the human host's bloodstream, blocking the parasite's attachment points in mosquitoes could cut off the parasite's development and prevent transmission to people. Jacobs-Lorena's team plans to determine the exact compositions of the mosquito glycosaminoglycans, which currently are unknown.

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