Defining the essential functions of red blood cell modifying proteins in malaria parasites

Research Opportunity
Honours students
Number of Honour Places Available
Department / Centre
Infectious Diseases
Burnet Institute
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
A/Prof Paul Gilson 85062481
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Hayley Bullen

Summary Infection with malaria-causing Plasmodium parasites afflicts hundreds of millions of people per year, tragically resulting in nearly half a million deaths. The development of new drugs and vaccines can be informed by greater knowledge of the parasite’s biology. This project seeks to understand how parasites extensively modify the red blood cells (RBC) they infect by studying the multitude of proteins the parasite exports into the RBC compartment. In particular, several exported proteins predicted to be essential for parasite survival will be studied to determine what functions they perform and how this contributes to parasite proliferation and immune evasion.

Project Details

Infection with Plasmodium falciparum parasites results in approximately half a million deaths from malaria disease annually. Underpinning parasite replication in blood stages of the disease and the ability of parasites to escape immune detection within the human erythrocyte is the Plasmodium translocon of exported proteins (PTEX). PTEX is crucial to blood-stage growth and virulence of malaria parasites. This complex sits within the parasitophorous vacuole membrane (PVM) and serves to export hundreds of effector proteins into the infected erythrocyte cytosol. About a fifth of these exported proteins are essential for parasite function, but their precise roles within the parasite are yet to be determined. This project will involve characterising the role of a set of essential exported proteins, with a view to identifying novel essential functions. Specifically, we will employ a plethora of phenotyping assays to pinpoint the exact role of each protein. This project has the potential to unveil novel parasite functions which in turn may highlight novel areas for intervention.

Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology

School Research Themes

Women's Health, Infectious Diseases and Immunity

Research Opportunities

Honours students
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.

Department / Centre

Infectious Diseases

Research Node

Burnet Institute

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