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Infernal Machine

Structural organisation and host interaction of disease-causing Apicomplexa parasites revealed

29 September 2022

Infernal Machine

Scientists used to imagine cells as bags of soup with organelles floating inside like croutons. We now understand that our cells' contents fit together in ordered structures. Take, for example, the parasite Eimeria tenella, shown here. Along this elongated cell, we see exquisite organisation. Parasites in this family contain structures and organelles comprising the apical complex, which allows them to invade host cells. By combining two types of electron microscopy, the researchers have revealed the structure of whole parasites and their apical complexes in unprecedented detail. Here, we can see specialised organelles called rhoptries (purple) and micronemes (yellow). Molecules in these organelles are secreted into the host cell, allowing Eimeria tenella to gain access to its host and survive within it, but this process is poorly understood. The 3D images produced in this study allow scientists to unpick this molecular machinery, which may help them to design new drugs for parasitic infections.

Written by Henry Stennett

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