Kliniken & Institute … Institute Zentrum für… Parasitology Unit Research Kilian lab

Malaria Research: Kilian

Research interest

The Kilian lab investigates novel secretory organelles generated by malaria parasites to establish host-parasite interaction.

The asexual replication of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum occurs in the red blood cells of the human host and is responsible for the symptoms and disease severity experienced by patients suffering from malaria tropica.

To ensure survival and successful procreation within the organelle-deprived host red blood cells, Plasmodium falciparum commences to reorganize the cytoplasm of the host cell. This cumulates in the generation of a novel secretory organelle outside the parasite’s own cell within the cytoplasm of the red blood cell. The secretory organelle was named Maurer’s clefts in the honor of Georg Maurer who first discovered the structure in 1902. The importance of the Maurer’s clefts is undeniable and failure to properly generate this organelle hampers host-parasite interaction, which can culminate in the clearance of the infected red blood cell by the spleen. More than 100 years after their discovery, the Maurer’s clefts still remain mysterious. The Kilian lab aims to decipher this fascinating organelle.

The erythrocytic schizogony of P. falciparum (A). Merozoites infect the red blood cells where they develop into ring, trophozoite and schizont. During that time the parasite generates the Maurer’s clefts. During the ring stage the organelle has a vesicular shape. In the mature trophozoite and schizont stages the Maurer’s clefts are flattened single or stacked cisternae. The Maurer’s clefts are crucial for trafficking the parasite protein PfEMP1 (P. falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1) to the red blood cell surface (B). There the protein is presented on red blood cell plasma membrane protrusions, so called knobs, which are generated by the parasite as well (C). Proper presentation of PfEMP1 is crucial to enable cytoadherence of the infected red blood cell to endothelial cells which line the blood vessel wall. Cytoadherence removes the infected red blood cell from the peripheral blood to avoid the passage of the spleen, where deformed red blood cells infected with mature developmental stages of the parasite are removed from circulation. Hidden away in the vascular bed of inner organs such as the brain, the parasite is able to complete the erythrocytic schizogony by producing merozoites which commence and infect new red blood cells. E: red blood cell, PVM: parasitophorous vacuolar membrane, MC: Maurer’s clefts, K: knobs, PM: red blood cell plasma membrane, CP: cytoplasm. Image credit: Kilian et al., 2020 (BioEssays).
2021

Ganter M†, Guizetti J† and Kilian N† “Visualization of Infected Red Blood Cell Surface Antigens by Fluorescence Microscopy” Book chapter accepted for publication in Methods in Molecular Biology: Malaria Immunology; targeting the surface of infected erythrocytes (to be published by Springer in February 2022). †Corresponding authors

Sanchez CP, Patra P, Chang SY, Karathanasis C, Hanebutte L, Kilian N, Cyrklaff M, Heilemann M, Schwarz US, Kudryashev M, Lanzer M “KAHRP Dynamically Relocalizes to Remodeled Actin Junctions and Associates with Knob Spirals in P. falciparum-Infected Erythrocytes” Mol Microbiol. 2021 Sep 13. doi: 10.1111/mmi.14811.

Broichhagen J† and Kilian N† “Chemical Biology Tools to Investigate Malaria Parasites” Chembiochem. 2021 Jul 1;22(13):2219-2236. Review article. †Corresponding authors

Song JE, Alves T, Stutz B, Sestan-Pesa M, Kilian N, Diano S, Kibbey RG and Horvath TL “Mitochondrial Fission Governed by Drp1 Regulates Exogenous Fatty Acid Usage and Storage” Metabolites. 2021 May 18;11(5):322.

2020

 Kilian N†, Zhang Y, LaMonica L, Hooker G, Toomre D, Ben Mamoun C† and Ernst AM† “Palmitoylated Proteins in Plasmodium falciparum-Infected Erythrocytes: Investigation with Click Chemistry and Metabolic Labeling” Bioessays. 2020 Jun;42(6). †Corresponding authors

Gitta B† and Kilian N† “Diagnosis of Malaria Parasites Plasmodium spp. in Endemic Areas: Current Strategies for an Ancient Disease” Bioessays. 2020 Jan;42(1). Review article. †Corresponding authors

2019

Thekkiniath J, Kilian N, Lawres L, Gewirtz MA, Graham MM, Liu X, Ledizet M and Ben Mamoun C “Evidence for Vesicle-Mediated Antigen Export by the Human Pathogen Babesia microti” Life Science Alliance. 2019 Jun 13;2(3).

2018

Abraham A, Brasov I, Thekkiniath J, Kilian N, Lawres L, Gao R, DeBus K, He L, Yu X, Zhu G, Graham M, Liu X, Molestina R and Ben Mamoun C “Establishment of a Continuous in vitro Culture of Babesia duncani in Human Erythrocytes Reveals Unusually High Tolerance to Recommended Therapies” Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2018 Dec 28;293(52): 19974-19981.

Kilian N, Choi JY, Voelker DR and Ben Mamoun C “Role of Phospholipid Synthesis in the Development and Differentiation of Malaria Parasites in the Blood” Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2018 Nov 9;293(45):17308-17316. Review article. 

Kilian N*, Goryaynov A*, Lessard MD, Hooker G, Toomre D, Rothman JE and Bewersdorf J “Assessing Photodamage in Live-Cell STED Microscopy” Nature Methods. 2018 Oct;15(10):755-756. *Equal contribution

2017

Bottanelli F, Kilian N, Ernst AM, Rivera-Molina F, Schroeder LK, Kromann EB, Lessard MD, Erdmann RS, Schepartz A, Baddeley D, Bewersdorf J, Toomre D and Rothman JE “A Novel Physiological Role for ARF1 in the Formation of Bi-Directional Tubules from the Golgi” Molecular Biology of the Cell. 2017 Jun 15;28(12):1676-1687.

2015

Kilian N*, Sirismith S*, Dittmer M, Ouermi D, Bisseye C, Simpore J, Cyrklaff M, Sanchez CP and Lanzer M “Hemoglobins S and C Affect Protein Export in Plasmodium falciparum-Infected Erythrocytes” Biology Open. 2015 Feb 20; 4(3):400-10. *Equal contribution

2013

Kilian N*, Dittmer M*, Cyrklaff M, Ouermi D, Bisseye C, Simpore J, Frischknecht F, Sanchez CP and Lanzer M “Hemoglobin S and C Affect the Motion of Maurer’s Clefts in Plasmodium falciparum-Infected Erythrocytes” Cellular Microbiology. 2013 Jul; 15(7):1111-2. *Equal contribution

2011

Cyrklaff M, Sanchez CP, Kilian N, Bisseye C, Simpore J, Frischknecht F and Lanzer M “Hemoglobins S and C Interfere with Actin Remodeling in Plasmodium falciparum-Infected Erythrocytes” Science. 2011 Dec 2; 334(6060):1283-6.

2009

Henrich P, Kilian N, Lanzer M and Cyrklaff M “3-D Analysis of the Plasmodium falciparum Maurer's Clefts Using Different Electron Tomographic Approaches” Biotechnology Journal. 2009 Jun; 4(6):888-94.

News - Kilian group

International Women's Day / Int. Frauentag

On the occasion of the international women's day on 8 March Nicole, among other female staff, was interviewed by our hospital's social media team. The interview is available on different channels (facebook, instagram, twitter).

Interview series in Advanced Science News

Since May 2021 Nicole Kilian has been interviewing scientists from different fiels for "Advanced Science News".

Check out her interviews like the one with Steven Hawley, astrophysicist and retired NASA astronaut, or with Canan Dağdeviren, bioengineer and principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab or with Albert Zink, director at the Institute for Mummy Studies at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy or or or...

Not only interesting for scientists!

How to get in touch:

Dr. Nicole Kilian 

Centre for Infectious Diseases, Parasitology

Heidelberg University Hospital

Im Neuenheimer Feld 324 (3rd floor)

69120 Heidelberg, Germany

Tel. +49 (0)6221 56-22859