Characterisation of malaria parasite proteins exported into infected liver cells

Characterisation of malaria parasite proteins exported into infected liver cells

Project details

Malaria parasites infect the liver before they can infect the blood, causing disease. Therefore, blocking liver infection prevents malaria. To survive inside host cells, pathogens transport proteins into the infected host cell that supress immune defences. That said, the way malaria parasites evade liver cell immune responses remains poorly understood. 

This project will identify proteins exported by malaria parasites into their infected host liver cells and explore their function (Orito et al., Molecular Microbiology 2013 87(1):66-79). The project will involve cell culture, dissecting sporozoites from mosquitoes, infection of liver cells, flow cytometry, proteomics to identify exported parasite proteins, molecular biology, CRISPR/Cas9 genetics to tag and knockout Plasmodium genes, fluorescence microscopy of parasites and proteins and functional genomics. 

About our research group

Our laboratory is interested in the function of proteins during malaria parasite infection of mosquitoes and human liver cells (Yang et al., Cell Reports 2017 18(13):3105-16). We use an insectary to explore the lifecycle of the malaria parasite. This equips us to study parasite transmission to mosquitoes and subsequent infection of the liver by sporozoites dissected from mosquitoes. The aim of this research is to develop new ways to fight malaria. 

We are a friendly and supportive lab whose researchers help each other to learn, provide feedback, obtain reproducible results to communicate our research and progress our careers. We collaborate with a variety of laboratories, both within WEHI and externally. This project will involve collaborations with the Tonkin lab and proteomics experts at WEHI. 


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Microscope image of malaria parasite
Malaria liver-stage parasites growing inside hepatocytes
(Image: Dr Ryan Steel) 



Associate Professor Chris Tonkin

Associate Professor Chris Tonkin in his office
Associate Professor
Acting Division Head, Laboratory Head

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