Podcast #4 | 29 October 2021: New research into the role and function of the apicoplast, a plant-like structure within the malaria parasite, has changed scientists’ perceptions of how the parasite survives.
The apicoplast, a plant-like structure within Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasites, has long been thought to have one essential function in blood-stage parasites: to produce isoprenoids, chemical building blocks essential for parasite survival. But it’s now been found that the apicoplast also produces a metabolite called Co-A, and that this product is also required for parasite survival. Interestingly, when the apicoplast is targeted by existing antimalarial drugs, it fragments into vesicles, but these remnant vesicles still produce Co-A. So, when you disrupt the apicoplast, you don’t inactivate all of its metabolic pathways, as was previously believed. This new insight into the complexity of the apicoplast – and its enduring activity even when disrupted - has changed scientists’ perception of the organelle and could inform new drug development strategies.