October 14, 2010

After going through so many papers for this blog, I’ve realized how ridiculously cool some pathogens are in how they infect and spread in host cells. The parasite featured in the above images takes the proverbial cake...an infected, proliferating cake.

The parasite Theileria spreads its infection to new host cells differently from many other pathogens, which replicate within and exit from the cell to invade other cells. A recent paper shows how this parasite stays in the cell and divides along with the cell during mitosis, co-opting the cell’s own mitotic spindle in order to end up in both daughter cells. Theileria also manipulates the cell’s own signaling in order to allow continuous growth and to prevent apoptosis (programmed cell death), expanding the infection. Images above are of infected cells at different mitotic stages, with microtubules (left; red in merged images), a Theileria marker (middle left; green in merged images), and DNA (blue in merged images). During metaphase (top), anaphase (middle), and telophase/cytokinesis (bottom), Theileria attaches itself to the microtubules of the mitotic spindle.

Reference: Conrad von Schubert, Gongda Xue, Jacqueline Schmuckli-Maurer, Kerry L. Woods, Erich A. Nigg, Dirk A. E. Dobbelaere. Authors’ PLoS Biology paper can be found here.

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