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Das Protein Kelch13(Pfeile) ist durch die neue Methode SLI mit einem grün fluoreszierenden Markerprotein verknüpft und so zum ersten Mal im Zellplasma von Malariaparasiten(drei rote rundliche Umrisse) sichtbar gemacht. Parasiten leben in roten Blutzellen. © AG Spielmann / BNITM

New genetic engineering method speeds up malaria research

Scientists at Hamburg's Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine reveal new analysis method - boosts development of new malaria medication

Plasmodium falciparum is a protozoan parasite, one of the species of Plasmodium that cause malaria in humans. However, the functions of its approximately 5,500 genes have yet to be determined even though it has been known for over 100 years.

A new genetic engineering method called Selection Linked Integration (SLI) has allowed scientists at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg to determine which genes help the parasite survive and the location of the protein. Their findings have been published in the Nature Methods periodical in March 2017. “Our method is called Selection Linked Integration (SLI). We localized and inducibly inactivated Kelch13, the protein associated with artemisinin resistance,” said Dr. Tobias Spielmann, head of the research group at BNITM.

Rapid selection thanks to SLI system

SLI allows for rapid selection of genomic integration and lets the scientists functionally analyse targets at the gene and protein levels, thus permitting mislocalization of native proteins, a strategy known as knock sideways, floxing to induce diCre-based excision of genes and knocking in altered gene copies. Current systems for studying essential genes in the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum are often inefficient and time intensive. They depend on the genetic modification of the target locus, a process hindered by the low frequency of integration of episomal DNA into the genome. The scientists expect the SLI system to become widely applicable for P. falciparum and other organisms with limited genetic tractability.

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