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Saman Habib, Ph. D.

Chief Scientist, Biochemistry and Structural Biology

Malaria biology: molecular analyses of parasite organelles

My group’s interest in the malaria parasite is driven by the desire to understand (a) the molecular workings and functions of the relict plastid (apicoplast) of Plasmodium, (b) mechanisms of protein translation employed by Plasmodium organelles and (c) human genetic factors and susceptibility to severe P. falciparum malaria in endemic and non-endemic regions of India. We use cellular and molecular biology tools to investigate the essentiality of specific apicoplast proteins in housekeeping and metabolic functions, determine their biochemical interactions, and explore the possibility of these serving as specific drug targets against malaria. Exploration of the organisation and replication of the apicoplast genome, its translation machinery, interactions of antibiotics with apicoplast and mitochondrial ribosomes, regulation of DNA repair and organellar transcription, and delineation of the SUF pathway of [Fe-S] cluster biosynthesis engages us. In collaboration with clinicians, we also look at variation in genes encoding immune regulatory and cell adhesion molecules in Indian populations and their association with susceptibility/resistance to falciparum malaria in the country.

My laboratory has contributed to the area of malaria biology, particularly in molecular analyses of parasite plastid (apicoplast) function and field-based population genetics studies to understand malaria susceptibility.

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