JAN 22, 2016 12:20 PM PST

New Pathway of 'Microptosis' to Attack Parasitic Infections

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker
Scientists discovered a process similar to apoptosis in T lymphocytes and natural killer (NK) cells when they attack intracellular parasites before they can spread to other cells during an infection. Researchers from the Boston Children’s Hospital Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine call the pathway “microptosis.”
 

 
“What our work suggests is that you can drive programmed cell death even in microbes,” said senior study investigator Judy Lieberman, MD, PhD. “I think it's probably a really ancient pathway." The study was published recently in the journal Nature Medicine.
 
The researchers used both human and specially engineered mouse cells to visualize microptosis after infected the cells with three intracellular parasites:
  • Trypanosoma cruzi
  • Toxoplasma gondii
  • Leishmania major
They saw the immune cells produce three proteins – perforin, granulysin, and granzymes – upon infection with the parasites. By poking holes in the membrane of a cell infected with a parasite, perforin allows granulysin and granzymes to enter. Granulysin attacks the surface of the parasite while the granzymes kill the parasite from within. Specifically, granzymes interrupt metabolism within the mitochondria, blocking the parasite’s source of power. After toxic reactive oxygen species build up, the DNA material shrinks and the membrane deteriorates. All three of the proteins are required for successful microptosis.
 
"While the parasitic enzymes that microptosis acts on are similar to mammalian enzymes," Leiberman said, "they are different enough that it should be relatively easy to develop drugs that target them and leave a patient's cells alone."
 
Indeed, when the body’s killer immune cells are overwhelmed with a particularly immense infection of parasites, boosting the microptotic action of the team of proteins with drug injections could prevent dangerous spread of parasitic infections.
 

Source: Boston Children's Hospital
 
 
About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
AUG 24, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
FDA Grants Emergency Approval for Blood Plasma to Treat COVID-19
AUG 24, 2020
FDA Grants Emergency Approval for Blood Plasma to Treat COVID-19
The US Food and Drug Agency (FDA) has given emergency approval for expanded use of antibody-rich blood plasma to help th ...
SEP 16, 2020
Immunology
Depression, but Not Anxiety, Causes Inflammation and Metabolic Imbalances
SEP 16, 2020
Depression, but Not Anxiety, Causes Inflammation and Metabolic Imbalances
Scientists have discovered that depressed individuals show higher levels of inflammation as well as elevated fat concent ...
OCT 08, 2020
Immunology
Air Pollution Particles Detected in the Placenta, Immune Cells Mop Them Up
OCT 08, 2020
Air Pollution Particles Detected in the Placenta, Immune Cells Mop Them Up
Tiny, black particles much like those found in polluted air have been found in the placentas of pregnant women, as repor ...
OCT 08, 2020
Immunology
Immuno Metabolic Complexity and Modulating Metabolites
OCT 08, 2020
Immuno Metabolic Complexity and Modulating Metabolites
Immunometabolism is a relatively new subspecialty of immunology as we’ve begun to unravel the complex metabolic re ...
OCT 22, 2020
Immunology
Migraines: Dark Times and (Pharmaceutical) Rays of Hope
OCT 22, 2020
Migraines: Dark Times and (Pharmaceutical) Rays of Hope
Despite being commonly used interchangeably, headaches and migraines are worlds apart. Migraines are by far much more pr ...
NOV 20, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Cat Parasite Gives Clues on New Drug Targets for Schizophrenia
NOV 20, 2020
Cat Parasite Gives Clues on New Drug Targets for Schizophrenia
Researchers from the UK and France have discussed a mechanism of action behind the infamous Toxoplasma gondii  ...
Loading Comments...