2 | Understanding the divergent function of conserved proteins
Several proteins are known key players in sporozoite motility, including trans-membrane adhesion proteins at the plasma membrane and proteins of the actin cytoskeleton. The adhesion proteins contain conserved domains found across most eukaryotes. However there are interesting differences in their ligand specificity, which we aim to understand by generating parasite lines expressing adhesion proteins that contain domains from different organisms. Also actin and actin binding proteins are very important for sporozoite motility. Again, the actin looks very similar to actin from yeast or humans, however, in Plasmodium it only makes short and highly dynamic filaments. We aim to identify which amino acids in actin are causing these fundamentally different characteristics. Also some very conserved actin binding proteins contain domains not known from other organisms or function in analogous, yet different ways and we address these by a mix of genetic, biochemical and cell biology approaches.