The sugar transport in the Malaria parasite has been mapped in detail by scientists at the Department of Biochemist and Biophysics, Chemistry Section, Stockholm University.

The consumption of sugar is a fundamental source of fuel in most living organisms. In the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, the uptake of glucose is essential to its life cycle. Like in other cells, sugar is transported into the parasite by a transport protein – a door designed for sugar to pass through the cell membrane. The details in how this door works has now been revealed.

“By elucidating the atomic structure of the sugar-transporting-protein PfHT1, we can better understand how glucose is transported into the parasite”, says David Drew, Wallenberg Scholar at the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and leading the study at Stockholm University.

The main goal of the research is basic understanding of this important biological process, but with the potential for development of new antimalarial drugs. Malaria kills almost half a million persons each year, according to the WHO. By blocking the door for sugar, it has been shown that one can stop the growth of the malaria parasites.

David Drew. Photo: Magnus Bergström/Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation

“It’s a long process from a compound with antimalarial activity to a drug that can be taken in the clinic. However, with this knowledge one can improve known antimalarial compounds so that they are more specific to the malarial transporter, so they do not have the side-effect of stopping sugar transport into our own cells. As such, this knowledge increases the likelihood that more specific compounds can be developed into a successful drug”, says David Drew.

Follow this link to read the full coverage of Dr Drew's research paper or read the full article.