Rhomboid enzymes and malaria treatment: an interview with Sinisa Urban

The long-term application of our research is to design drugs that block rhomboid enzyme action in malaria and other parasites. From our previous research we believe that rhomboid function is essential for parasites to infect human cells. So in simple terms, no rhomboid enzyme function, no parasite infection. But to achieve this goal you need to know how an enzyme’s put together in the first place.

Our new, comprehensive heat-map of rhomboid’s architectural features takes us one step closer to that eventual goal, because enzymes that are rock-solid behave differently in terms of drug design compared to those that are ‘squishy’.

Do you think your research will have any implications for the treatment of other diseases? What are your plans for further research into this field?

Yes; this could be the most exciting part. Over the past few years it’s become clear that rhomboid enzymes participate in the infective cycles of many diverse parasites. These range from Toxoplasma that infects hundreds of thousands in the US, to amoebae that cause millions of cases of dysentery worldwide each year.

So it’s conceivable that anti-rhomboid drugs could be used to treat a whole spectrum of very different diseases. But that’s far off into the future and what’s needed as the next step is more research on the parasite rhomboid enzymes directly, because some of these enzymes are 3 times larger than the bacterial enzymes that we studied. The enzyme core is recognizably similar, but we don’t know what these other parts do, so we need to study them directly.

via Rhomboid enzymes and malaria treatment: an interview with Sinisa Urban.

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