My lab studies the cytoskeleton of Giardia intestinalis. Giardia is an important parasite that affects a wide variety of animal hosts, including over 100 million (mostly impoverished) people each year. Treatment options are limited; therefore, the WHO has recognized giardiasis as a neglected disease. In addition to Giardia being a major parasite, this organism stands out as one of the most evolutionary divergent eukaryotes (from animals) that can be manipulated in the laboratory. While the majority of microtubule cytoskeleton components can be identified in the Giardia genome, none ofthe core set of homologous actin-binding proteins (e.g.: nucleators, motors, bundling, and severing proteins), can be found in Giardia. Yet, the Giardia actin cytoskeleton still has complex organization and is regulated by G-protein signaling. Moreover, the Giardia actin cytoskeletonhas a conserved role in cellular organization, trafficking, and cytokinesis (novel mechanism without contractile ring or midbody). Importantly the giardial actin cytoskeleton is both essential and highly divergent from that of humans; therefore, it represents an important potential target for treating this neglected disease and an opportunity to gain insight into evolution of the cytoskeleton.
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