GRC Biology of Host-Parasite Interactions

Back in Newport, RI for another week of all things parasites
Published in Microbiology
GRC Biology of Host-Parasite Interactions

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After a somewhat stressful journey with a bit too many too-close-for-comfort connections between flights and shuttle buses, it looks like I will actually make it in time to Newport, RI for another GRC conference on the “Biology of Host-Parasite Interactions”. It’s been 2 years since the last meeting, and just like last time, this year’s schedule looks packed with great parasitology talks ranging from parasite cell biology to disease transmission and control, featuring a wide cast not restricted to Plasmodium and Trypanosomes. As I can’t really bare to watch another movie (it’s been a long day!) and the internet in the shuttle isn’t really fast enough to work a little, I found myself with a little free time on the bus journey from Boston to Newport and felt this would be a nice chance to go over how parasitology has been represented in our pages since the last meeting. This is by no means an exhaustive analysis, but I think I’ve listed pretty much every paper we published over the last couple of years below, and there are a few interesting things that jump out:

  • Nature Microbiology published 24 parasitology articles over the last 24 months (23 research articles and 1 review), for the nice round average of 1 paper / month. We don’t have quotas for different subjects at the journal but try to make sure that all areas of microbiology are represented in our pages, so it’s nice to think that our readers open our table of contents to find at least one parasitology paper each month that may spark their interest.
  • The papers published feature a wide array of parasites, and although Plasmodium (11 articles) and Trypanosomes (x5) clearly dominate the list, we’ve also featured Toxoplasma (x2), Onchocerca (x2), Leishmania, Babesia and microsporidia.
  • We've featured a vast range of topics, from genomics and evolution to pathogenesis, from cellular and molecular biology to drugs and drug resistance, from structural biology to disease transmission (see below for a more detailed list).
  • Parasites made the cover 5 times over the last 2 years, including some really cool visual representations of Onchocerca genomes, a colorful view of Plasmodium DNA replication, striking EM images of Trypanosomes and Leishmania parasites, and in the form of ape hosts (in a cover that may feature one of our favourite set of cover words ever, in the form of the punny “Plasmodium of the apes”, courtesy of our editor Emily White).

It’s hard to do each of these papers justice in a short blog post, so I’ll leave them just as a list organized by topic and hope that at least some of those titles will inspire you to read some of them in a bit more detail – they’re certainly worth the time. It’s also tough to cover just a few of them in a bit more detail without seeming to be picking favorites, so I won’t do it – just like any parent, I’m proud of all the parasitology papers we publish in our pages. So I’ll just finish with the wish that in two years’ time the list will be at least as long as the current one and filled with amazing stories as this one is. In the meantime, I’m very much looking forward to what looks like a great meeting over the next few days – and if you see me around, please stop and say hi (and maybe tell me which is your favourite piece).

Genomics / evolution

The genome of Onchocerca volvulus, agent of river blindness

Genomic diversity in Onchocerca volvulus and its Wolbachia endosymbiont

A global map of genetic diversity in Babesia microti reveals strong population structure and identifies variants associated with clinical relapse

Genomes of all known members of a Plasmodium subgenus reveal paths to virulent human malaria

Cellular and molecular biology

Plasmodium falciparum CRK4 directs continuous rounds of DNA replication during schizogony

Trypanosoma brucei metabolism is under circadian control

Malaria parasites possess a telomere repeat-binding protein that shares ancestry with transcription factor IIIA

Regulation of PfEMP1–VAR2CSA translation by a Plasmodium translation-enhancing factor 

Structural biology

Structural basis for the shielding function of the dynamic trypanosome variant surface glycoprotein coat

The structure of serum resistance-associated protein and its implications for human African trypanosomiasis 

Pathogenesis and host defense

Cell-to-cell spread of microsporidia causes Caenorhabditis elegans organs to form syncytia

Antibody-independent mechanisms regulate the establishment of chronic Plasmodium infection

Toxoplasma depends on lysosomal consumption of autophagosomes for persistent infection

Efficient invasion by Toxoplasma depends on the subversion of host protein networks

APOLs with low pH dependence can kill all African trypanosomes

Dietary alterations modulate susceptibility to Plasmodium infection

Plasmodium UIS3 sequesters host LC3 to avoid elimination by autophagy in hepatocytes

A protease cascade regulates release of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum from host red blood cells

Drugs and resistance

Drug resistance in eukaryotic microorganisms (Review)

UDP-galactose and acetyl-CoA transporters as Plasmodium multidrug resistance genes

Mefloquine targets the Plasmodium falciparum 80S ribosome to inhibit protein synthesis

Hexahydroquinolines are antimalarial candidates with potent blood-stage and transmission-blocking activity


Interspecies quorum sensing in co-infections can manipulate trypanosome transmission potential

Sequential blood meals promote Leishmania replication and reverse metacyclogenesis augmenting vector infectivity

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