Plasmodium falciparum is a deadly human pathogen that is responsible for over a million deaths every year. The proteome of P. falciparum is disproportionately rich in repeats of asparagine;one in four proteins contain such repeats. The presence of Asn repeats in a protein leads to amyloid fibril formation. During its life cycle, P. falciparum undergoes large temperature fluctuations that can promote amyloid fibril formation. Chaperones or heat shock proteins, such as Hsp110, Hsp70 and Hsp40, are present in all kingdoms of life and influence amyloid fibril formation. However, their biological roles and mechanism of action remains poorly defined. The proposed career development plan aims to gain fundamental insights into the function of chaperones in maintaining the Asn repeat-rich proteome of P. falciparum, while establishing an independent academic career in a university setting. The candidate will build on his strong foundation in biochemistry, protein biophysics and parasitology to develop into an independent researcher in P. falciparum biology under the mentorship of Dr. Daniel Goldberg, a pioneer and leader in the study of the intraerythrocytic stages of the malaria parasite. The plan will be carried out in the Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases at Washington University School of Medicine, a leading institution in biomedical science. In a recent paper, the candidate reported the development of a novel regulatable, fluorescent, affinity (RFA) tag that was used to study a 28-residue Asn repeat in the P. falciparum proteasome subunit, Rpn6. The Asn repeat did not affect the protein function, stability or interactions even under heat shock;suggesting the presence of an active process that ensures proper folding of Asn repeat containing proteins. During the mentored phase, the candidate will: 1) Examine the function of PfHsp110 in parasite proteostasis using the parasite lines where PfHsp110 gene has been RFA tagged via biochemical and microscopic approaches. Amyloid forming proteins will also be expressed in these parasite lines to study how the PfHsp110 influences fibril formation. 2) Determine the mechanism of action and specificity by complementing the RFA tagged parasite with mutants of PfHsp110 and homologs from other organisms. PfHsp110 will also be expressed in a heterologous mammalian system and its effect on fibril formation in mammalian cells will be studied using biochemical and microscopic approaches. In the independent phase of the award the candidate will elucidate the roles of Hsp70, Hsp70-like and Hsp40 chaperones of the parasite in maintaining a stable Asn repeat-rich proteome. These chaperones were discovered by the candidate to be associated with PfHsp110. Training in biochemical, microscopic and cell biological approaches as outlined in the research plan has equipped the candidate to embark on a comprehensive and fruitful research program as an independent researcher. The proposed studies will reveal fundamental aspects of chaperone function in P. falciparum, which will furnish new drug targets against malaria as well as other protein misfolding diseases.

Public Health Relevance

Malaria is a deadly disease that afflicts hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The parasite that causes the deadliest form of malaria, Plasmodium falciparum, is rapidly gaining drug resistance making it imperative to identify new strategies to kill this parasite. The proposed research will investigate new classes of drug targets to understand their role in parasite biology and develop better drugs against them.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Research Transition Award (R00)
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No Study Section (in-house review) (NSS)
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Joy, Deirdre A
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University of Georgia
Public Health & Prev Medicine
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United States
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Kudyba, Heather M; Cobb, David W; Florentin, Anat et al. (2018) CRISPR/Cas9 Gene Editing to Make Conditional Mutants of Human Malaria Parasite P. falciparum. J Vis Exp :
Florentin, Anat; Cobb, David W; Fishburn, Jillian D et al. (2017) PfClpC Is an Essential Clp Chaperone Required for Plastid Integrity and Clp Protease Stability in Plasmodium falciparum. Cell Rep 21:1746-1756
Cobb, David W; Florentin, Anat; Fierro, Manuel A et al. (2017) The Exported Chaperone PfHsp70x Is Dispensable for the Plasmodium falciparum Intraerythrocytic Life Cycle. mSphere 2:
Muralidharan, Vasant; Goldberg, Daniel E (2013) Asparagine repeats in Plasmodium falciparum proteins: good for nothing? PLoS Pathog 9:e1003488