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A “molecular motor” reveals unsuspected strengths

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Anne Houdusse, a specialist in “molecular motors” at Institut Curie, revealed in Nature Communications a new mode of action of these motors involved in malaria infection. A disease that annually kills half a million people worldwide.

For over 25 years Anne Houdusse (UMR 144 CNRS / Institut Curie) has focused her research on molecular motors: proteins capable of developing mechanical forces and producing movements. It is through these molecular motors that our muscles contract, for example, but it’s also thanks to them that cancer cells can be triggered to metastasize…
The researcher has become an international reference on the subject. The proof? “When several scientists in the United States and England began to suspect the involvement of one of these molecular motors, Myosin A, in the infection with Plasmodium [the malaria parasite], they contacted each other simultaneously,” she explains. The researchers then organized themselves into a consortium and revealed the precise role of Myosin A in this context.

“Experts in visualizing motors at atomic resolution, we also gained expertise in the development of small molecules to block the operation of these engines. Our goal is to understand their role in health and disease,” she further explains. In the case of the Plasmodium Myosin A, we uncovered the details of its atypical mechanism for force generation. We understood how the motor can adapt the force produced for different essential functions of the parasite: the invasion of red blood cells and the rapid spread of the parasite to other stages of its cycle. ” These results make it possible for us to develop new treatments against malaria by targeting the key driver – Plasmodium Myosin A.

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Plasmodium myosin A drives parasite invasion by an atypical force generating mechanism