Basic Malaria Research
We acquire new functional and mechanistic insight into processes linked to the essential biology of malaria blood stage parasites. These parasite forms are responsible for all malaria-related morbidity and mortality as well as for the transmission of parasites between humans via the mosquito vector. We place particular emphasis on
(1) investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying parasite-induced red blood cell remodeling, through which infected red blood cells adopt pathogenic traits;
(2) understanding the transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms responsible for antigenic variation and sexual conversion, which facilitate chronic blood infection and parasite transmission, respectively; and
(3) the identification and characterization of parasite ligands required for red blood cell invasion and their cognate invasion-inhibitory antibodies.
We further engage in elucidating mechanisms of action of anti-malarial drugs and in identifying immunological response signatures associated with native and adaptive anti-malarial immunity in vivo.
Role of the Plasmodim Falciparum Protein CyRPA in Parasite Invasion of Erythrocytes
A reverse vaccinology approach has led us to the identification of the P. falciparum Cysteine Rich Protective Antigen (PfCyRPA). The protein forms together with PfRH5 and PfRipr a multiprotein complex crucial for erythrocyte invasion. We have determined the crystal structure of PfCyRPA and are using this and parasite inhibitory and non-inhibitory anti-CyRPA monoclonal antibodies as a basis for analyzing its function.