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Figueiredo, Luísa
Lab

Biology of Parasitism

The core of parasitism is the ability of an organism to exploit its host, which may increase reproductive success of the parasite, usually by enhancing its transmission efficiency. Sleeping sickness, or Human African Trypanosomiasis, is a fatal neglected disease caused by a unicellular parasite, Trypanosoma brucei, which is responsible for approximately 3000 cases every year in Sub-Saharan Africa.

T. brucei relies on sophisticated mechanisms such as antigenic variation and cell differentiation to overcome the host immune system and to ensure its transmission to a new host, respectively. Importantly, in chronic stages of the disease T. brucei interferes with the host sleep pattern, justifying the name of sleeping sickness disease. Efficient parasitism relies therefore on a cross-talk between parasite, host and environment. These interactions have phenotypic consequences for both the parasite and the host, which at the molecular level are translated by a tight control of gene expression.

In our group, we use genetic, biochemical and molecular approaches to study these interactions.

  • Research Areas

    • Molecular mecanisms of gene expression
    • Biology of extra-vascular parasites
    • Circadian rhythm of parasites and host
  • Research Team

    • Ongoing Research Projects

      • 2016/2019 Metabolic consequences of an infection by African trypanosomes. Coordinator: Luisa M Figueiredo. Agency: Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia.
      • 2016/2018 Long non-coding RNAs as new diagnostic biomarkers for African sleeping sickness. Coordinator: Fabien Guegan (post-doc in my laboratory). Agency: Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia. 
      • 2012/2016 YIP Grant EMBO. Coordinator: Luisa M Figueiredo. Agency: PRIV-UE, EMBO. 
      • 2016/2017 Small Grant EMBO. Coordinator: Luisa M Figueiredo. Agency: PRIV-UE, EMBO. 
      • 2012/2017 How parasites use epigenetics to evade host defenses. Coordinator: Luisa M Figueiredo. Agency: Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
    • Prizes

      • 2012 HHMI International Early Career Scientist (Luísa Figueiredo)
      • 2010 Crioestaminal Award (Luísa Figueiredo)
      • 2002 Award from the American Society for Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, in recognition of scientific excellence in Molecular, Cellular and Immunoparasitology (Luísa Figueiredo)
    • Selected Publications

      • Rijo-Ferreira F, Pinto-Neves D, Barbosa-Morais NL, Takahashi J & Figueiredo LM (2017) Metabolism of Trypanosoma brucei is under circadian control. Nat Microbiol., 2:17032. doi: 10.1038/nmicrobiol.2017.32
      • Cicova Z, Dejung M, Skalicky T, Eisenhuth N, Hanselmann S, Morriswood B, Figueiredo LM, Butter F, Janzen CJ. (2016) Two flagellar BAR domain proteins in Trypanosoma brucei with stage-specific regulation. Sci Rep., 6:35826
      • Tanowitz HB, Scherer PE, Mota MM and Figueiredo LM. “Adipose tissue: A safe haven for parasites?” Trends Parasitol. 2016, In Press, Corrected Proof, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pt.2016.11.008
      • Trindade S & Rijo-Ferreira F, Carvalho T, Pinto-Neves D, Guegan F, Aresta-Branco F, Bento F, Young SA, Pinto A, Van Den Abbeele J, Ribeiro RM, Dias S, Smith TK, Figueiredo LM. Trypanosoma brucei parasites occupy and functionally adapt to the adipose tissue in mice. Cell Host and Microbe 2016, 19 (6): 837–848
      • Aresta-Branco F, Pimenta S, Figueiredo LM. A transcription-independent epigenetic mechanism is associated with antigenic switching in Trypanosoma brucei. Nucleic Acids Res 2015 (7): 3131-3146
      • Pena AC, Pimentel MR, Manso H, Vaz-Drago R, Pinto-Neves D, Aresta-Branco F, , Rijo-Ferreira F, Guegan F, Pedro Coelho L, Carmo-Fonseca M, Barbosa-Morais NL, Figueiredo LM (2014) Trypanosoma brucei histone H1 inhibits RNA polymerase I transcription and is important for parasite fitness in vivo. Molecular Microbiology; 93(4):645- 63
      • Figueiredo LM and Cross GAM (2010) Nucleosomes are depleted at the VSG expression site transcribed by RNA polymerase I in African trypanosomes. Eukaryot Cell; 9(1): 148-154
      • Figueiredo LM, Cross GAM, Janzen CJ. (2009) Epigenetics in African trypanosomes. Nat Rev Microbiol; 7: 504-513
      • Boothroyd CE, Dreesen O, Leonova T, Ly I, Figueiredo LM, Cross GAM, and Papavasiliou FN. (2009) Single endonuclease-generated DNA breaks induce antigenic switching in Trypanosoma brucei Nature; 459: 278-281
      • Yang X, Figueiredo LM, Espinal A, Okubo E and Li B. (2009) RAP1 Is Essential for Silencing Telomeric Variant Surface Glycoprotein Genes in Trypanosoma brucei. Cell; 137: 99-109
      • Figueiredo LM, Janzen CJ, Cross GA. (2008) A Histone Methyltransferase Modulates Antigenic Variation in African Trypanosomes. PLoS Biology; 6 (7): e161
      • Hertz-Fowler C, Figueiredo LM* et al. (2008) Telomeric expression sites are highly conserved in Trypanosoma brucei. PLoS ONE; 3(10) e3527 *shared first authorship

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