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    ABSTRACT: As more endemic countries enter the elimination phase, the detection of sporadic malaria infections or outbreaks elicits many questions: (i) are the infections locally acquired or imported? (ii) If imported, where do they come from? (iii) Do outbreak strains have a single or multiple geographic origins? New molecular barcoding methods provide ways to analyze clinical malaria parasite samples and answer these and other crucial questions.
    Trends in Parasitology 08/2014; 30(10). DOI:10.1016/j.pt.2014.08.003
  • Current Medicinal Chemistry 12/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Infections caused by the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are today a major burden in nosocomial disease control. The global trend shows an alarming increase of MRSA infections as well as multi-drug resistance (MDR). The problem is exacerbated by the fact that infections with community-associated (CA) MRSA strains showing increased virulence and fitness add to infections with multi-drug resistant hospital-associated (HA) MRSA. The toxicity of pathogens and limited effectiveness of available treatment have led to high mortality rates and vast expenses caused by prolonged hospitalization and usage of additional antibiotics. Recently approved drugs still have classical targets and upcoming resistance can be expected. In a new approach by targeting co-factor syntheses of bacteria, the drug target and the affected pathways are uncoupled. This novel strategy is based on the thought of a classical pro-drug which has to be metabolized before becoming toxic for the bacterium as a dysfunctional co-factor, named suicide drug. Ideally these metabolizing pathways are solely present in the bacterium and absent in the human host, such as vitamin biosyntheses. This mini-review discusses current ways of MRSA infection treatment using new approaches including suicide drugs targeting co-factor biosyntheses.
    Current Medicinal Chemistry 11/2013; DOI:10.2174/0929867320666131119122520
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    ABSTRACT: Insect storage proteins accumulate at high levels during larval development of holometabolous insects. During metamorphosis they are degraded, supplying energy and amino acids for the completion of adult development. The genome of Culex quinquefasciatus contains eleven storage protein-coding genes. Their transcripts are more abundant in larvae than in pupae and in adults. In fact, only four of these genes are transcribed in adults, two of which in blood-fed adult females but not in adult males. Transcripts corresponding to all Cx. quinquefasciatus storage proteins were detected by RT-PCR, while mass spectrometric analysis of larval and pupal proteins identified all storage proteins with the exception of one encoded by Cq LSP1.8. Our results indicate that the identified Cx. quinquefasciatus storage protein-coding genes are candidates for identifying regulatory sequences for the development of molecular tools for vector control.
    PLoS ONE 10/2013; 8(10):e77664. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0077664
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    ABSTRACT: Rickettsia rickettsii is an obligate intracellular tick-borne bacterium that causes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), the most lethal spotted fever rickettsiosis. When an infected starving tick begins blood feeding from a vertebrate host, R. rickettsii is exposed to a temperature elevation and to components in the blood meal. These two environmental stimuli have been previously associated with the reactivation of rickettsial virulence in ticks, but the factors responsible for this phenotype conversion have not been completely elucidated. Using customized oligonucleotide microarrays and high-throughput microfluidic qRT-PCR, we analyzed the effects of a 10°C temperature elevation and of a blood meal on the transcriptional profile of R. rickettsii infecting the tick Amblyomma aureolatum. This is the first study of the transcriptome of a bacterium in the genus Rickettsia infecting a natural tick vector. Although both stimuli significantly increased bacterial load, blood feeding had a greater effect, modulating five-fold more genes than the temperature upshift. Certain components of the Type IV Secretion System (T4SS) were up-regulated by blood feeding. This suggests that this important bacterial transport system may be utilized to secrete effectors during the tick vector's blood meal. Blood feeding also up-regulated the expression of antioxidant enzymes, which might correspond to an attempt by R. rickettsii to protect itself against the deleterious effects of free radicals produced by fed ticks. The modulated genes identified in this study, including those encoding hypothetical proteins, require further functional analysis and may have potential as future targets for vaccine development.
    PLoS ONE 10/2013; 8(10):e77388. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0077388
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    ABSTRACT: Tamoxifen has been shown to be active in vitro against Leishmania and effective in the treatment of leishmaniasis in murine models. Through the screening of a compound library of estrogen receptor modulator analogues we identified the major characteristics required for antileishmanial activity. To overcome the difficulties presented by tamoxifen's propensity for E/Z isomerization, we used the 2-arylbenzothiophene compound BTP as a more stable alternative. Directed screening of a small compound library based on BTP led to active compounds against Leishmania. Subsequent structure-activity data for the synthetic 2-arylbenzothiophenes evaluated in this study indicates that optimal antileishmanial potency is dependent on the presence of two basic side chains. In addition, the primary structural features required for estrogen receptor binding, the phenols, are not required for inhibiting parasitic growth. Significantly, the most active antileishmanial benzothiophenes lack the pharmacophore for estrogen receptor activity, and therefore address potential concerns about the undesirable effects of using selective estrogen receptor modulators in women and children with leishmaniasis. Three compounds selected from the screening have shown consistent activity against all species and stages of Leishmania in vitro although improvements in selectivity are needed. These compounds represent viable starting points for further optimization as antileishmanial agents. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Chemical Biology &amp Drug Design 10/2013; DOI:10.1111/cbdd.12239
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    ABSTRACT: Worldwide the entire human population is at risk of infectious diseases of which a high degree is caused by pathogenic protozoans, worms, bacteria, and virus infections. Moreover the current medications against pathogenic agents are losing their efficacy due to increasing and even further spreading drug resistance. Therefore, there is an urgent need to discover novel diagnostic as well as therapeutic tools against infectious agents. In view of that, the Systematic Evolution of Ligands by Exponential Enrichment (SELEX) represents a powerful technology to target selectively pathogenic factors as well as entire bacteria or viruses. SELEX uses a large combinatorial oligonucleic acid library (DNA or RNA) which is processed a by high-flux in vitro screen of iterative cycles. The selected ligands, termed aptamers, are characterized by high specificity and affinity to their target molecule, which are already exploited in diagnostic and therapeutic applications. In this minireview we will discuss the current status of the SELEX technique applied on bacterial and viral pathogens.
    09/2013; 2013(4968):731516. DOI:10.1155/2013/731516
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    ABSTRACT: Indole compounds are involved in a range of functions in many organisms. In the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, melatonin and other tryptophan derivatives are able to modulate its intraerythrocytic cycle, increasing the schizont population as well as parasitemia, likely through ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) gene regulation. In plants, melatonin regulates root development, in a similar way to that described for indoleacetic acid, suggesting that melatonin and indoleacetic acid could co-participate in some physiological processes due to structural similarities. In the present work we evaluate whether the chemical structure similarity found in indoleacetic acid and melatonin can lead to similar effects in Arabidopsis thaliana lateral root formation and Plasmodium falciparum cell cycle modulation, as well as in the ubiquitin-proteasome system of gene regulation, by qRT-PCR. Our data show that P. falciparum is not able to respond to indoleacetic acid either in the modulation of the intraerythrocytic cycle or in the gene regulation mediated by the UPS as observed for melatonin. The similarities of these indole compounds are not sufficient to confer synergistic functions in P. falciparum cell cycle modulation, but could interplay in A. thaliana lateral root formation.
    Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology 07/2013; 1(1):1. DOI:10.1111/jeu.12080
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    ABSTRACT: Over the past three decades, L-proline has become recognized as an important metabolite for trypanosomatids. It is involved in a number of key processes, including energy metabolism, resistance to oxidative and nutritional stress and osmoregulation. In addition, this amino acid supports critical parasite life cycle processes by acting as an energy source, thus enabling host-cell invasion by the parasite and subsequent parasite differentiation. In this paper, we demonstrate that L-proline is oxidized to Δ(1)-pyrroline-5-carboxylate (P5C) by the enzyme proline dehydrogenase (TcPRODH, E.C. 1.5.99.8) localized in Trypanosoma cruzi mitochondria. When expressed in its active form in Escherichia coli, TcPRODH exhibits a Km of 16.58±1.69 µM and a Vmax of 66±2 nmol/min mg. Furthermore, we demonstrate that TcPRODH is a FAD-dependent dimeric state protein. TcPRODH mRNA and protein expression are strongly upregulated in the intracellular epimastigote, a stage which requires an external supply of proline. In addition, when Saccharomyces cerevisiae null mutants for this gene (PUT1) were complemented with the TcPRODH gene, diminished free intracellular proline levels and an enhanced sensitivity to oxidative stress in comparison to the null mutant were observed, supporting the hypothesis that free proline accumulation constitutes a defense against oxidative imbalance. Finally, we show that proline oxidation increases cytochrome c oxidase activity in mitochondrial vesicles. Overall, these results demonstrate that TcPRODH is involved in proline-dependant cytoprotection during periods of oxidative imbalance and also shed light on the participation of proline in energy metabolism, which drives critical processes of the T. cruzi life cycle.
    PLoS ONE 07/2013; 8(7):e69419. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0069419
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    ABSTRACT: Dengue is the most prevalent arboviral infection, affecting millions of people every year. Attempts to control such infection are being made, and the development of a vaccine is a World Health Organization priority. Among the proteins being tested as vaccine candidates in preclinical settings is the non-structural protein 1 (NS1). In the present study, we tested the immune responses generated by targeting the NS1 protein to two different dendritic cell populations. Dendritic cells (DCs) are important antigen presenting cells, and targeting proteins to maturing DCs has proved to be an efficient means of immunization. Antigen targeting is accomplished by the use of a monoclonal antibody (mAb) directed against a DC cell surface receptor fused to the protein of interest. We used two mAbs (αDEC205 and αDCIR2) to target two distinct DC populations, expressing either DEC205 or DCIR2 endocytic receptors, respectively, in mice. The fusion mAbs were successfully produced, bound to their respective receptors, and were used to immunize BALB/c mice in the presence of polyriboinosinic: polyribocytidylic acid (poly (I:C)), as a DC maturation stimulus. We observed induction of strong anti-NS1 antibody responses and similar antigen binding affinity irrespectively of the DC population targeted. Nevertheless, the IgG1/IgG2a ratios were different between mouse groups immunized with αDEC-NS1 and αDCIR2-NS1 mAbs. When we tested the induction of cellular immune responses, the number of IFN-γ producing cells was higher in αDEC-NS1 immunized animals. In addition, mice immunized with the αDEC-NS1 mAb were significantly protected from a lethal intracranial challenge with the DENV2 NGC strain when compared to mice immunized with αDCIR2-NS1 mAb. Protection was partially mediated by CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells as depletion of these populations reduced both survival and morbidity signs. We conclude that targeting the NS1 protein to the DEC205(+) DC population with poly (I:C) opens perspectives for dengue vaccine development.
    PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 07/2013; 7(7):e2330. DOI:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002330
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