This is the abstract of a talk prepared for the Oeiras Mathematical and Computational Biology Workshop. June 20, 2003, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência
Abstract: Malaria is a disease caused by infection by a parasite of the genus Plasmodium and it affects millions of people in the world, leading to up to three million deaths of childreen, every year. Experimental work performed in the IPH laboratory, at the IGC, as shown that G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are necessary for the development of the parasite and therefore constitute optimal therapeutic targets.
GPCRs constitute a large, diverse and ancient superfamily of integral cell mambrane proteins that modulate signal transduction. The signals that they respond to are also very diverse, e.g., light, Ca2+, odorants and small molecules (like aminoacid residues and nucleotides). Structurally, the superfamily consists of different families sharing no sequence similarity, although they all share a central core domain constituted of seven transmembrane helices, connected by three intracellular and three extracellular loops.
The sequecing of P. falciparum and P. yoellii genomes have allowed us to define their putative sets of GPCRs, by combination of computational tools. Furthermore, we are in the process of doing a characterisation of the GPCR sets in the context of the superfamily as well as on different stages of the parasite development.