From Rio to Durham, for crystal clarity on how leishmania parasites survive inside their host

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Category: Interviews, Researcher secondments

“Structure is the starting point for understanding any protein!”
Dr Amy Goundry is currently a post-doctoral research associate from the lab of Ana Paula Lima (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro). Amy’s career to date has focussed on one, puzzling protein.  “Inhibitor of Serine Peptidase 2” (ISP2), is a protein found in Leishmania parasites, enabling them to infect their mammalian (including human) hosts.  Serine peptidases are enzymes with key roles in health and disease, appearing in organisms everywhere from viruses and bacteria to humans – everywhere that is, except in Leishmania. Once a sandfly bite has introduced Leishmania parasites into the body of a mammal host, they must quickly infect white blood cells, and modify the behaviour of these cells, in order to survive.  The parasites produce ISP2, which inactivates white blood cell serine peptidases and halts the immune response.
“…but after more than a decade of research, we still don’t know how ISP2 works!”
This puzzle has brought Amy to Durham University for a 5-week secondment with our structural biologists – Dr Ehmke Pohl and the crystallography team.