Three major factors underline the aggressive behaviour of Entamoeba histolytica: i) parasite adhesion to intestinal and hepatic epithelium, ii) parasite motility towards these epithelia, and iii) cytolytic activity on human cells.
The studies conducted in the Cell Biology of Parasitism Unit at the Pasteur Institute aim to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms that allow tissue invasion by E. histolytica. The most relevant points of our research activities indicate that the cytoskeleton of E. histolytica underlies the pathogenic process. We are thus particularly interested in understanding how parasites displace themselves by analysing chemoattractant molecules, cytoskeleton dynamics and parasite morphological changes. We are particularly interested in the characterization of how amoeba moves by studying attractant molecules, the « motor » proteins such as myosins and their interacting factors. The cross-talk of E. histolytica with intestinal cells is studied by identification of adhesion molecules and analysis of signalling pathways. To understand the transformations of the parasite during pathogenesis, we recently started the analysis of changes in gene expression leading to tissue invasion and parasite survival. These studies will certainly allow us to underline new targets for a pharmacological development against amoebiasis.