Kiaran Kirk

Dean, ANU College of Science

Group membership

Kiaran Kirk carried out his PhD in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Sydney (1985-1988).  In 1989 he went to the Oxford University Laboratory of Physiology where he held an Oxford Nuffield Medical Fellowship, the Staines Medical Research Fellowship (Exeter College) and a Lister Institute Senior Research Fellowship.  He returned to Australia in 1996 to head the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the ANU Faculty of Science, holding this post until June 2009 when he took up the position of Director of the newly-created ANU Research School of Biology. From 2014 to 2017 Kiaran served as the Dean of the ANU College of Medicine, Biology and Environment.  Since August 2017 he has been Dean of the ANU College of Science.

Kiaran's primary research interest is in the biology of the malaria parasite, with a particular focus on the mechanism of action of, and mechanisms of resistance to, antimalarial drugs. He was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences in 2017.

Research interests

  • The physiology and biochemistry of the malaria parasite
  • Mechanisms of drug action and drug resistance in the malaria parasite.

Recent grants

  • ARC Discovery Grant (DP200100483) van Dooren, G., Kirk, K.(2020-2022) Regulating nutrient uptake in intracellular parasites
  • NH&MRC Project Grant (1159648) Lehane, A.M., Kirk, K. (2019-2020) Understanding high-level resistance to antimalarial PfATP4 inhibitors
  • ARC Linkage Projects Grant (LP150101226):  Todd, M., Kirk, K., Wells, T. (2015-2018) An Open Source approach to understanding an important parasite ion pump
  • ARC Discovery Grant (DP150102883):  Kirk, K., van Dooren, G., Bröer, S., Cockburn, I. (2015-2018) A novel family of amino acid transporters in Apicomplexan parasites
  • NH&MRC Project Grant (1042272): Kirk, K. (2013-2015) Targeting an ion pump in the malaria parasite with multiple compound classes
  • Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV): Kirk, K. (2012-2013) Testing the MMV Malaria Box on malaria parasite ion regulation
  • NH&MRC Project Grant (585473): Saliba, K.J., Kirk, K., Tilley, L., Maier, A. (2010-2012) The Na+/H+ exchanger and H+-pumping pyrophosphatases of the malaria parasite
  • NH&MRC Project Grant (525428): Kirk, K. (2009-2011) Transport of amino acids and polyamines in the malaria parasite
  • GO8/DAAD Australia Germany Joint Research Co-operation Scheme: Kirk, K. (2008-2009) Molecular identification of novel permeation pathways induced by malaria parasites
  • NH&MRC Project Grant (418055): Kirk, K. (2007-2009)  Chloroquine resistance and the physiology of the malaria parasite’s digestive vacuole
  • ARC Discovery Grant (DP0771754): Kirk, K. and Saliba, K.J. (2007-2009) Ion transport in the malaria parasite and parasitised erythrocyte
  • NH&MRC Project Grant (316933): Kirk, K. (2005-2007) Metabolomic analysis and membrane transport proteins in the malaria parasite
  • ARC Discovery Grant (DP0559433): Kirk, K., Howitt, S.M. and Bröer, S. (2005-2007) Amino acid transporters and the chloroquine resistance transporter of the intracellular malaria parasite.

Selected publications

  • Parker, K.E.R., Fairweather, S.J., Rajendran E., Blume M., McConville, M.J., Bröer, S.*, Kirk, K.*, van Dooren, G.G.* (2019) The tyrosine transporter of Toxoplasma gondii is a member of the newly defined apicomplexan amino acid transporter (ApiAT) family. PLoS Pathogens, 15:e1007577. [*Joint Senior & Corresponding Authors]
  • Lehane, A.M., Dennis, A.S.M., Bray, K.O., Li, D., Rajendran, E., McCoy, J.M., McCarthur, H.M., Winterberg, M., Rahimi, F., Tonkin, C.J., Kirk, K. and van Dooren, G.G. (2019) Characterization of the ATP4 ion pump in Toxoplasma gondii. J. Biol. Chem., 294, 5720-5734
  • Gilson, P.R.,Kumarasingha, R., Thompson, J., Zhang, X., Sietsma Penington, J., Kahlor, R., Bullen, H.E., Lehane, A.M., Dans, M.G., de Koning-Ward, T.F., Holien, J.K., Soares da Costa, T.P., Hulett, M.D., Buskes, M.J., Crabb, B.S., Kirk, K., Papenfuss, A.T., Cowman, A.F. and Abbott, B.M. (2019) A 4-cyano-3-methylisoquinoline inhibitor of Plasmodium falciparum growth targets the sodium efflux pump PfATP4, Sci. Rep. 9, 10292 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41598-019-46500-5
  • Rosling, J.E.O., Ridgway, M.C., Summers, R.L., Kirk, K. and Lehane, A.M., (2018) Biochemical characterization and chemical inhibition of PfATP4-associated Na+-ATPase activity in Plasmodium falciparum membranes.  J. Biol. Chem.293, 13327-13337
  • Dennis, A.S.M., Rosling, J.E.O., Lehane, A.M. and Kirk, K. (2018) Diverse antimalarials from whole-cell phenotypic screens disrupt malaria parasite ion and volume homeostasis.  Sci. Rep. 8, 8795. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-26819-1
  • Dennis, A.S.M., Lehane, A.M., Ridgway, M.C., Holleran, J. and Kirk, K. (2018) Cell swelling induced by the antimalarial KAE609 (cipargamin) and other PfATP4-associated antimalarials.  Antimicrob. Agents Chemother.,  62, pii: e00087-18. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00087-18
  • Hapuarachchi, S.V., Cobbold, S.A., Shafik, S.H., Dennis, A.S.M., McConville, M.J., Martin, R.E., Kirk, K.*, Lehane, A.M.* (2017)  The malaria parasite’s lactate transporter PfFNT is the target of antiplasmodial compounds identified in whole cell phenotypic screens.  PLoS Pathog., 13:e1006180. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1006180 [*Joint Senior & Corresponding Authors]
  • Rajendren, E. Hapuarachchi, S.V., Miller, C.M., Fairweather, S.J., Cai, Y., Smith, N.C., Cockburn, I.A., Bröer, S. Kirk, K.* and van Dooren, G.G.* (2017) Cationic amino acid transporters play key roles in the survival and transmission of apicomplexan parasites.  Nature Comm., 8:14455. doi: 10.1038/ncomms14455 [*Joint Senior & Corresponding Authors]
  • Williamson, A.E., Ylioja, P.M., Robertson, M.N., Antonova-Koch, Y., Avery, V., Baell, J., Batchu, H., Batra, S., Burrows,J.N., Bhattacharyya, S., Calderon, F., Charman, S.A., Clark, J., Crespo, B., Dean, M., Debbert, S.L., Delves, M., Dennis, A.S.M., Deroose, F., Duffy, S., Fletcher, S., Giaever, G., Hallyburton, I., Gamo, F-J., Gebbia, M., Guy, R,K., Hungerford, Z., Kirk, K., Lafuente-Monasterio, M.J., Lee, A., Meister, S., Nislow, C., Overington, J.P., Papadatos, G., Patiny, L., Pham, J., Ralph, S., Andrea Ruecker, A., Ryan, E., Southan, C., Srivastava, K., Swain, C., Tarnowski, M.J., Thomson, P., Turner, P., Wallace, I.M., Wells, T.N.C., White, K., White, L., Willis, P., Winzeler, E.A., Wittlin, S. and Todd, M.H. (2016) Open source drug discovery - Highly potent antimalarial compounds derived from the Tres Cantos arylpyrroles.  ACS Central Science, 4, e06416. doi: 10.7554/eLife.06416
  • Van Voorhis, W.C. … Kirk, K. … Lehane A.M. … [188 authors in total] (2016) Open source drug discovery with the Malaria Box compound collection for neglected diseases and beyond. PLoS Pathog 12: e1005763. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1005763
  • Winterberg, M. and Kirk, K. (2016) A high-sensitivity HPLC assay for measuring intracellular Na+ and K+ and its application to Plasmodium falciparum infected erythrocytes. Sci. Rep. 6, 29241; doi: 10.1038/srep29241
  • Cobbold, S.A., Llinas, M. and Kirk, K. (2016) Sequestration and metabolism of host cell arginine by the intraerythrocytic malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Cellular Microbiol.  18, 820-830
  • Kirk, K. (2015) Ion regulation in the malaria parasite. Annu. Rev. Microbiol. 69, 341–59
  • Spillman, N.J. and Kirk, K. (2015) The malaria parasite cation ATPase PfATP4 and its role in the mechanism of action of a new arsenal of antimalarial drugs. Int.J. Parasitol.: Drugs and Drug Resistance. 5, 149-162
  • Marchetti, R.V., Lehane, A.M., Shafik, S.H., Winterberg, M., Martin, R.E. and Kirk, K. (2015) A lactate and formate transporter in the intraerythrocytic malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum.  Nature Comm.  6, 6721
  • Jiménez-Díaz, M.B., Ebert, D., Salinas, Y., Pradhan, A., Lehane, A.M., Myrand-Lapierre, M., O’Loughlin, K.G., Shackleford, D.M., de Almeida, M.J.L., Carillo, A., Clark, J., Dennis, A.S.M., Diep, J., Deng, X., Duffy, S., Endsley, A.N., Guiguemde, G.F.A., Gomez-Lorenzo, M.G., Holbrook, G., Horst, J., Kim, C., Liu, J., Lee, M.C.S., Matheny, A., Martínez, M.S., Miller, G., Rodriguez-Alejandre, A., Sanz, L., Sigal, M., Spillman, N.J., Stein, P.D., Wang, Z., Zhu, F.,, Waterson, D., Knapp, S., Shelat, A.A., Fidock, D.A., Gamo, F.J., Charman, S.A., Mirsalis, J.C., Ma, H., Ferrer, S., Kirk, K., Angulo-Barturen, I., Kyle, D.E., DeRisi, J.L., Floyd, D.M., Guy, R.K. (2014) (+)-SJ733: A Clinical Candidate for Malaria that Acts Through ATP4 to Induce Rapid Host-Mediated Clearance of Plasmodium. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA. 111, E5455- E5462
  • Vaidya, A.B., Morrisey , J.M., Zhang, Z., Das, S., Daly, T.M., Otto, T.D., Spillman, N.J., Wyvratt, M., Siegl, P., Marfurt, J., Wirjanata, G., Sebayang, B., Price, R.N., Chatterjee, A., Nagle, A., Stasiak, M., Charman, S.A., Angulo-Barturen, I., Ferrer, S., Jiménez-Díaz, M.B., Martínez, M.S., Gamo, F.J., Avery, V.M., Ruecker, A., Delves, M., Kirk, K., Berriman, M., Kortagere, S., Burrows, J., Fan, E. and Bergman, L.W. (2014) Pyrazoleamide compounds are potent antimalarials that target Na+ homeostasis in intraerythrocytic Plasmodium falciparum.  Nature Comm.  5, 5521
  • Tran, P., Brown, S., Mitchell, T., Matuschewski, K., McMillan, P., Kirk, K., Dixon, M. and Maier, A. (2014) A female-gametocyte-specific ABC transporter plays a role in lipid metabolism in the malaria parasite.  Nature Comm.  5, 4773
  • Spillman, N.J., Allen, R.J.W., McNamara, C.W., Yeung, B.K.S., Winzeler, E.A., Diagana, T.T. and Kirk, K. (2013) Na+ regulation in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum involves the cation ATPase PfATP4 and is a target of the spiroindolone antimalarials. Cell Host & Microbe 13, 227-237
  • Winterberg, M., Rajendran, E., Baumeister, S., Bietz, S., Kirk, K. and Lingelbach K. (2012) Chemical activation of a high-affinity glutamate transporter in human erythrocytes and its implications for malaria-parasite-induced glutamate uptake. Blood, 119, 3604-3612
  • Martin, R.E., Marchetti, R.V., Cowan, A.I., Howitt, S.M., Bröer, S. and Kirk, K. (2009) Chloroquine transport via the malaria parasite’s ‘Chloroquine Resistance Transporter’. Science, 325, 1680-1682
  • Dean, S., Marchetti, R., Kirk, K. and Matthews, K.R. (2009) A surface transporter family conveys the differentiation signal in African trypanosomes. Nature, 459, 213-217
  • Lehane, A.M., Hayward, R., Saliba K.J. and Kirk, K. (2008) A verapamil-sensitive chloroquine-associated H+ leak from the digestive vacuole in chloroquine-resistant malaria parasites. J. Cell Sci. 121, 1624-1632
  • Martin, R.E. and Kirk, K. (2007) Transport of the essential nutrient isoleucine in human erythrocytes infected with the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Blood 109, 2219-2226
  • Salibaa, K.J., Martina, R.E., Bröer, A., Henry, R.I., McCarthy, C.S., Downie, M.J., Allen, R.J.W., Mullin, K.A., McFadden, G.I., Bröerb, S. and Kirkb, K. (2006) Sodium-dependent uptake of inorganic phosphate by the intracellular malaria parasite. Nature 443, 582-585 [a,b Equal contributions]
  • Martin, R.E., Henry, R.I., Abbey, J.L., Clements, J.D, and Kirk, K. (2005) The 'permeome' of the malaria parasite: an overview of the membrane transport proteins of Plasmodium falciparum. Genome Biol. 6, R26
  • Martin, R.E. and Kirk, K. (2004) The malaria parasite’s chloroquine resistance transporter is a member of the drug/metabolite transporter superfamily. Mol. Biol. Evol. 21, 1938–1949
  • Allen, R.J.W. and Kirk, K. (2004) The membrane potential of the intraerythrocytic malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. J. Biol. Chem., 279, 11264-11272
  • Kirk, K. (2001) Membrane transport in the malaria-infected erythrocyte. Physiol. Rev. 81, 495-537
  • Reed, M.B., Saliba, K.J., Caruana, S.R., Kirk, K. and Cowman, A.F. (2000) Pgh1 modulates sensitivity and resistance to multiple antimalarials in Plasmodium falciparum. Nature 403, 906-909.All publications