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Molecular mechanisms and evolution of apicomplexan parasite/host interaction

Department of Biochemistry

Applications accepted all year round Awaiting Funding Decision/Possible External Funding

About the Project

Apicomplexan parasites include disease agents responsible for malaria, toxoplasmosis, and other major diseases of humans and livestock. This phylum of single-celled eukaryotes diverged from many of our standard model organisms over a billion years ago, so while they share many common biological molecules and processes with ‘canonical systems’, they also possess tremendous novelty. This novelty in an impediment to understanding these organisms and to developing effective management strategies for the diseases that they cause.

To better understand apicomplexans, we have employed powerful proteomic methods —hyperLOPIT (hyperplexed Location of Organelle Proteins by Isotope Tagging) — to provide an atlas of where most of the cell’s proteins occur: in which organelles, structures and molecular complexes (Barylyuk et al, 2020). These data have provided a knowledge platform for asking new and targeted questions about the parasites’ cell biology. We are particularly interested in how these parasites interact with their hosts’ cells during invasion and subsequent infection.

This project will use advanced genetic manipulation and cell biology tools in the apicomplexan Toxoplasma gondii to dissect the molecular processes of host/pathogen interaction. It will draw on hyperLOPIT data from multiple apicomplexan parasites to seek answers to the question: Which host/pathogen interaction processes are common to apicomplexans and which are parasite taxon-specific, and what are the molecular mechanisms of these processes?


Barylyuk, K., Koreny, L., Ke, H., Butterworth, S., Crook, O.M., Lassadi, I., Gupta, V., Tromer, E.C., Mourier, T., Stevens, T.J., Breckels, L.M., Pain, A., Lilley, K.S., and Waller, R.F. (2020) A subcellular atlas of Toxoplasma reveals the functional context of the proteome. Cell Host & Microbe Oct 13, 2020

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