Alexander Maier

Professor Alex Maier’s passion for Molecular Parasitology was ignited during his studies at the University of Tuebingen (Germany) and Southern Colorado (USA). During his doctorate he investigated protein trafficking and membrane proteins of an energy generating organell in Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of the African sleeping sickness. This work was conducted under the supervision of Professor Christine Clayton at the ZMBH (Center for Molecular Biology) in Heidelberg, Germany.

In 2000 he was awarded a Post-doctoral fellowship from the German research council (Deutsche Forschungssgemeinschaft) to join the Walter and Eliza Institute of Medical Research (WEHI), Melbourne. Here he established and headed the WEHI Malaria Functional Genomics Facility from 2002-2008 focussing on the mechanism of how malaria parasites invade red blood cells and the transport and display of malaria molecules on the surface of infected red blood cells.

Prof. Maier moved to the Department of Biochemistry at La Trobe University as ARC Australian Research Fellow and lab head in 2008 to investigate red blood cell modifications induced by the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

Prof. Alex Maier joined the Division of Biomedical Sciences and Biochemistry at The Australian National University in 2012. His research activites have been recognised by several awards including being a finalist at the Eureka Awards and a Laureate of the Khwarizmi International Award. He is an Alexander-von-Humboldt Fellow, a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Fellow of the Australian Society for Parasitology.

Research interests

The research questions we are trying to answer are revolving around "How do malaria parasites survive in the host?", "What is are the mechanisms of sexual differentiation?", and "What special roles do lipids play in the life-cycle progression of the malaria parasite?". Hence the Maier lab focussed on the identification of molecules involved in malaria pathogenesis and transmission. In order to elucidate the functions of these molecules we use biochemical, molecular and cell biological techniques. The long-term goal is not only to identify and develop new intervention strategies against malaria, but also to understand the underlying biological principles.

The Maier lab is also interested in adaptations to the parastic life-style and the impact of parasites more broadly. 

Recent grants

  • NHMRC Ideas Grant (APP1182369): G. van Dooren, A. G. Maier, K. Saliba (2020-2022) - “Targeting the mitochondrial electron transport chain of apicomplexan parasites”

  • ARC Discovery Grant (DP180103212): Maier, A.G., Doerig, C., Tobin A. (2018-2020) - "Signalling pathways for sexual differentiation of apicomplexan parasites"

  • Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Council)/ANU: International Research Training Group: Program directors and Spokesperson: Matuschewski, K. and Maier, A.G. (2017-2022) - "Crossing Boundaries: Molecular Interactions in Malaria"

Selected publications

SaiShyam Ramesh, Daniela Cihalova, Esther Rajendra, Giel G. van Dooren and Alexander G. Maier: Analysis of Plasmodium falciparum mitochondrial electron transport chain activity using Seahorse XFe96 extracellular flux assays, Bio-protocols, 2023 accepted
Jenni A. Hayward*, F. Victor Makota*, Daniela Cihalova, Esther Rajendran, Soraya M. Zwahlen, Laura Shuttleworth, Ursula Wiedemann, Christina Spry, Kevin J. Saliba, Alexander G. Maier, Giel G. van Dooren: A small molecule screen identifies structurally diverse inhibitors of the electron transport chain in apicomplexan parasites, PLoS Pathogens, 2023 accepted
Myriam D. Jeninga*, Jingyi Tang*, Shamista A. Selvarajah*, Alexander G. Maier, Michael F. Duffy, Michaela Petter: Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes display global chromatin remodelling during sexual differentiation,BMC Biology, 2023 21:65
William Nguyen*, Madeline G.Dans*, Iain Currie, Jon Kyle Awalt, Brodie L. Bailey, Chris Lumb, Anna Ngo, Paola Favuzza, Saishyam Ramesh, Jocelyn Pennington, Kate E. Jarman, Alexander G. Maier, Giel G. van Dooren, Tony Papenfuss, Sergio Wittlin, Jake Baum, UCSD, Delphine Baud, Stephen Brand, Paul F. Jackson, Alan F. Cowman, and Brad E. Sleebs: 7-N-Substituted-3-Oxadiazole Quinolones with Potent Antimalarial Activity Target the Cytochrome b Complex 1, ACS Infectious Diseases, 2023 Mar 10; 9(3): 668–691
Merryn Fraser, Kai Matuschewski, Alexander G. Maier: The enemy within: lipid asymmetry in intracellular parasite-host interactions, Emerging Topics in Life Sciences, 2023; 7(1): 67–79
Alexander G. Maier and Christiaan Van Ooij:
The role of cholesterol in invasion and growth of malaria parasites, Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology (2022) doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2022.984049
Alexander G. Maier and Christian Doerig: “The sexy side of parasites”: How parasites influence host sex and how the sex of the host impacts parasites, Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology (2022); 248: 111462.
  • Kai Matuschewski and Alexander G. Maier: Pas-de-deux: African Plasmodium falciparum adaptations to sickle hemoglobin, Trends in Parasitology (2022); S1471-4922(22)00010-1.
  • Melanie Ridgway, Daniela Cihalova, Simon Brown, Todd Mitchell, Alexander G. Maier: "Analysis of sex-specific lipid metabolism in P. falciparum points to importance of sphingomyelin for gametocytogenesis" - Journal of Cell Science, 135 (5); jcs259592.
  • Tanima Dutta, Eva-Rachele Pesce, Alexander G. Maier and Gregory L. Blatch: "Role of the J Domain Protein family in the survival and pathogenesis of the malaria parasite" -  In: Addmore Shonhai and Gregory Blatch, eds. Heat Shock Proteins of Malaria 2nd edition (2021), Springer
  • Melanie Ridgway, Daniela Cihalova, Alexander G. Maier: "Sex-specific separation of Plasmodium falciparum gametocyte populations" - Bio-protocol, (2021); 11 (11): e4045
  • Merryn Fraser, Kai Matuschewski, Alexander G. Maier: "Of Membranes and Malaria: Phospholipid Asymmetry in Plasmodium falciparum-Infected Red Blood Cells" - Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, 2021, May;78(10):4545-4561
  • Merryn Fraser, Weidong Jing, Stefan Bröer, Florian Kurth, Leif-Erik Sander, Kai Matuschewski, Alexander G. Maier: "Breakdown in Membrane Asymmetry Regulation Leads to Monocyte Recognition of Plasmodium falciparum-infected Red Blood Cells" - PLoS Pathogens, 2021 Feb 18;17(2):e1009259.
  • Francois Korbmacher, Benjamin Drepper, Theo Sanderson, Peer Martin, Thomas Stach, Alexander G. Maier, Kai Matuschewski, Joachim M. Matz: "An apicoplast-resident folate transporter is essential for sporogony of malaria parasites" - Cellular Microbiology, 2021 ;23(1):e13266.
  • Melanie C. Ridgway, Kwong S. Shea, Daniela Cihalova, Alexander G. Maier: "A novel method for the separation of male and female gametocytes of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum that enables biological and drug discovery" - mSphere, 2020, 5 (4): e00671-20
  • Sanketha Kenthirapalan, Phuong N. Tran, Taco W. A. Kooij, Melanie C. Ridgway, Manuel Rauch, Simon H. J. Brown, Todd W. Mitchell, Kai Matuschewski, Alexander G. Maier: "Distinct Adaptations of a Gametocyte ABC Transporter to Murine and Human Plasmodium Parasites and Incompatibility in Cross-species Complementation" - International Journal for Parasitology 2020, 50 (6-7):511-522
  • Wenn-Chyau Lee, Bruce Russell, Radoslaw Mikolaj Sobota, Khairunnisa Ghaffar, Shanshan W. Howland, Zi Xin Wong, Alexander G. Maier, Dominique Dorin-Semblat, Subhra Biswas, Benoit Gamain, Yee-Ling Lau, Benoit Malleret, Cindy Chu, François Nosten, Laurent Rénia: "Plasmodium-infected erythrocytes induce secretion of IGFBP7 to form type II rosettes and escape phagocytosis" - e-Life 2020; 9:e51546.
  • Anna-Sophie Juergens & Alexander G. Maier: “The Parasite as Performer - Parasites, Clowns and the Circus" - Journal of Science & Popular Culture 2020, 3 (1): 39-56
  • Denise Higgins, Adelaide Dennis, Angela Stoddard, Alexander G. Maier, Susan Howitt: “Power to empower: conceptions of teaching and learning in a pedagogical co-design partnership" - Higher Education Research & Development 2019, 38(6): 1154-1167
  • Alexander G. Maier, Kai Matuschewski, Meng Zhang, Melanie Rug: "Plasmodium falciparum" - Trends in Parasitology 2019, 35(6): 481-482
  • Alexander G. Maier: “Now I feel like a true parasitologist” - Concept-based training for Early Career Scientists, Veterinary Parasitology 2018; 252: 80-84. 
  • Erick T. Tjhin, Christina Spry, Alan L. Sewell, Annabelle Hoegl, Leanne Barnard, Anna E. Sexton, Vanessa M. Howieson, Alexander G. Maier, Darren J. Creek, Erick Strauss, Rodolfo Marquez, Karine Auclair and Kevin J. Saliba: Mutations in the pantothenate kinase of Plasmodium falciparum confer diverse sensitivity profiles to antiplasmodial pantothenate analogues PLoS Pathogens, 2018;14(4):e10069
  • Meng Zhang, Pierre Faou, Alexander G. Maier,* Melanie Rug*: Plasmodium falciparum export protein PFE60 plays a role in Maurer’s clefts architecture, International Journal for Parasitology 2018; 48: 83-95
  • Phuong N. Tran, Cameron Tate, Melanie C. Ridgway, Kevin J. Saliba, Kiaran Kirk and Alexander G. Maier: Human dihydrofolate reductase influences the sensitivity of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum to ketotifen - a cautionary tale in screening transgenic parasites International Journal for Parasitology: Drugs and Drug Resistance, 2016 6, 179-183
  • Phuong N. Tran, Simon H. J. Brown, Melanie Rug, Melanie C. Ridgway, Todd W. Mitchell and Alexander G. Maier: Changes in lipid composition during sexual development of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum; Malaria Journal, 2016 Feb 6, 15:73
  • Melanie Rug, Marek Cyrklaff, Antti Mikkonen, Leandro Lemgruber, Simone Kuelzer, Cecilia Sanchez, Jennifer Thompson, Eric Hanssen, Matthew O’Neill, Christine Langer, Michael Lanzer, Freddy Frischknecht, Alexander G. Maier and Alan F. Cowman: Export of virulence proteins by malaria-infected erythrocytes involves remodelling of host actin cytoskeleton; Blood, 2014 Nov 27;124(23):3459-68
  • Phuong N. Tran, Simon H. J. Brown, Todd W. Mitchell, Kai Matuschewski, Paul J. McMillan, Kiaran Kirk, Matthew W. A. Dixon and Alexander G. Maier: A female-gametocyte-specific ABC transporter plays a role in lipid metabolism in the malaria parasite Nature Communications, 2014 Sep 8;5:4773.
  • Alexander G. Maier: The Malariologist’s Molecular Toolbox, In: Jane Carlton, Susan Perkins, Kirk Deitsch eds. Malaria Parasites - Comparative Genomics, Evolution and Molecular Biology (2012). Hethersett, Norwich, UK: Horizon Scientific Press
  • Alexander G. Maier, Brian M. Cooke, Alan F. Cowman and Leann Tilley: Malaria parasite proteins that remodel the host erythrocyte, Nature Reviews Microbiology, 2009 May 7 (5): 341-354
  • Alexander G. Maier, Melanie Rug, Monica Brown, Matthew T. O’Neill, Srabasti Chakravorty, Tadge Szestak, Joanne Chesson, Yang Wu, Katie Hughes, Ross Coppel, Chris Newbold, James Beeson, Alister Craig, Brendan S. Crabb and Alan F. Cowman: Exported Proteins Required for Virulence and Rigidity of Plasmodium falciparum-Infected Human Erythrocytes, Cell, 2008 Jul 11, 134:48-61
  • Alexander G. Maier*, Melanie Rug*, Matthew T. O’Neill, James Beeson, Matthias Marti, John Reeder and Alan F. Cowman: Skeleton Binding Protein 1 functions at the parasitophorous vacuolar membrane to traffic PfEMP1 to the Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocyte surface, Blood 2007 Feb, 109(3): 1289-1297 
  • Manoj T. Duraisingh, Alexander G. Maier, Tony Triglia and Alan F. Cowman: The erythrocyte binding antigen-175 functions in invasion of human erythrocytes by Plasmodium falciparum utilizing sialic acid-dependent and -independent pathways, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100 (8) (2003) 4796-4801
  • Alexander G. Maier, Manoj T. Duraisingh, John C. Reeder, Sheral S. Patel, James W. Kazura, Peter A. Zimmerman and Alan F. Cowman: Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte invasion via glycophorin C and selection for Gerbich-negativity in human populations, Nature Medicine 9 (1) (2003) 87-92.
All publications
  • BIOL3142/6143 Biomedical Parasitology (Convenor)
  • BIOL3210 Appreciating Parasites: from Molecules to Ecosystems (Convenor)
  • BIOL3203/6203 Advanced Microscopy in Biosciences (Lecturer)
  • BIOL3208 Biology Research Project (Supervisor)
  • BIOL3174/5 Research Projects, PhB Advanced Study Courses (Supervisor)
  • BIOL8700 Research Proposals (Supervisor)
  • BIOL8702 Advanced Research Techniques (Supervisor)