A three-dimensional model of the human malarial parasite genome has been generated by a research team at University of California, Riverside.
The parasite that causes malaria in humans is Plasmodium falciparum.
To understand the biology of an organism, scientists need to understand the information encoded in the genome sequence.
They also need to know how the sequence is compacted and physically organised in each cell/tissue and how changes in the 3D genome architecture can play a critical role in regulating gene expression.
In human cells, changes in chromosome organisation and compaction can lead to diseases such as cancer.
"Understanding the spatial organisation of chromosomes is essential to comprehend the regulation of gene expression in any eukaryotic cell," said lead author Karine Le Roch, an associate professor of cell biology and neuroscience at University of California.
According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 207 million people were infected with malaria in 2012, leading to 627,000 deaths.
"If we understand how the malaria parasite genome is organised in the nucleus and which components control this organisation, we may be able to disrupt this architecture and disrupt, too, the parasite development," Le Roch said.
Now we can more carefully search for components or drugs that can disrupt this organisation, helping in the identification of new anti-malaria strategies, he added.
We found, to our surprise, that the genome architecture is closely linked to virulence even in the case of the malaria parasite, he said in the study published in the journal Genome Research.