Giel Van Dooren

Giel Van Dooren
Rm 3.024, Level 3, Linnaeus Building (134)
 +61 2 6125 0665 (Office)



I completed a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Melbourne (2000) studying topics as varied as Australian history, eukaryotic evolution, creative writing and cell biology. My passion for evolution and cell biology drew me to the intellectually vigorous environment of the McFadden Lab at the School of Botany, University of Melbourne, where I completed my PhD (2001-2005) examining the evolution, biogenesis and metabolism of the mitochondrion and apicoplast (plastid) organelles of the malaria-causing parasite Plasmodium falciparum. At the end of my PhD I was awarded a CJ Martin overseas fellowship from the NHMRC. I decided to switch organisms and spent four tremendously exciting years in Boris Striepen’s lab at the University of Georgia in the USA, learning the ins and outs of the intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii, and at the same time acquiring a taste for soul food, Gillian Welch and college football (go Dawgs!). I returned to the McFadden lab in 2009, continuing to work on various aspects of the biology of Toxoplasma. I was awarded an ARC QEII fellowship in 2011 and took up a lecturing position in the Research School of Biology at the Australian National University in 2012. From 2014-2016, I have run two week experimental modules at the prestigious Biology of Parasitsm course at the Marine Biology Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, USA. I also teach experimental modules in the Australian Society for Parasitology Concepts in Parasitology course. I currently serve as the ACT representative on the Australian Society for Parasitology council.


Research interests

Apicomplexa are intracellular parasites that severely impact human health and economic prosperity in Australia and around the world. They include the malaria-causing parasite Plasmodium and the opportunistic pathogen Toxoplasma gondii. The objective of our lab is to gain a better understanding of the basic biology of these parasites, with the hope that such knowledge can be used in developing new treatment options against these formidable foes. We are interested in the inner workings of these parasites, with a particular focus on:

  • Organellar biology: We focus in particular on the mitochondrion and apicoplast (a reduced, chloroplast-derived organelle) of these parasites. We ask what contribution do these organelle make to parasite survival? How are these organelles made and how are they carried on into future generations of parasites? How are the metabolites required or generated in these organelles exchanged with the rest of the cell? What is the function of novel proteins that localise to these compartments?
  • Nutrient acquisition: We focus on solute transporters in the plasma membrane of these parasites, examining their role in nutrient acquisition and waste disposal. We utilise the facile genetics of T. gondii to uncover essential transporters, and then use a broad range of genetic, metabolomic, heterologous expression, and biochemical approaches to elucidate the function(s) of these transporters. We are in a terrific research environment to characterise the functions of novel transporters, and collaborate extensively with the groups of Kiaran Kirk, Adele Lehane and Stefan Bröer on these projects.

Our focus is predominantly on Toxoplasma, since the types of questions we are addressing are usually easiest to answer in this organism.


I convene the RSB mid-year Honours course, I am the Division of Biomedical Science and Biochemistry representative on the RSB Honours committee, and I am the Biology discipline co-ordinator for the PhB degree. I teach some lecturers in the 3rd year Parasitology course (BIOL3142) and from 2017 will convene a new 2nd year Cell Biology course.


Selected publications

  • van Dooren GG, Yeoh LM, Striepen B, McFadden GI (2016) The import of proteins into the mitochondrion of Toxoplasma gondii J Biol Chem. in press
  • Warring SD, Dou Z, Carruthers VB, McFadden GI, van Dooren GG (2014) Characterization of the chloroquine resistance transporter homologue in Toxoplasma gondii Eukaryot Cell 13(11): 1360-1370
  • Katris NJ, van Dooren GG, McMillan PJ, Hanssen E, Tilley L, Waller RF (2014) The apical complex provides a regulated gateway for secretion of invasion factors in Toxoplasma. PLoS Pathog 10(4): e1004074
  • van Dooren GG, Striepen B (2013) The algal past and parasite present of the apicoplast. Annu Rev Microbiol 67: 271-289
  • Glaser S*, van Dooren GG*, Agrawal S, Brooks CF, McFadden GI, Striepen B, Higgins MK  (2012) Tic22 is an essential chaperone required for protein import into the apicoplast. J Biol Chem 287(47): 39505-39512. *these authors contributed equally
  • Brooks CF*, Johnsen H*, van Dooren GG*, Muthalagi M, Lin SS, Bohne W, Fischer K and Striepen B (2010) The Toxoplasma apicoplast phosphate translocator links cytosolic and apicoplast metabolism and is essential for parasite survival. Cell Host Microbe 7(1): 62-73. *these authors contributed equally
  • van Dooren GG, Reiff SB, Tomova C, Meissner M, Humbel BM, Striepen B (2009) A novel dynamin-related protein has been recruited for apicoplast fission in Toxoplasma gondii. Curr Biol 19(4): 267-276. Cover Image
  • van Dooren GG, Tomova C, Agrawal S, Humbel BM, Striepen B (2008) Toxoplasma gondii Tic20 is essential for apicoplast protein import. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 105(36): 13574-13579.
  • Chtanova T, Schaeffer M, Han SJ, van Dooren GG, Nollmann M, Herzmark P, Chan SW, Satija H, Camfield K, Aaron H, Striepen B, Robey EA (2008) Dynamics of neutrophil migration in lymph nodes during infection. Immunity 29(3): 487-496.
  • van Dooren GG, Stimmler LM, McFadden GI (2006) Metabolic maps and functions of the Plasmodium mitochondrion. FEMS Microbiol Rev 30(4): 596-630.
  • van Dooren GG*, Marti M*, Tonkin CJ*, Stimmler LM, Cowman AF, McFadden GI (2005) Development of the endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondrion and apicoplast during the asexual life cycle of Plasmodium falciparum. Mol Microbiol 57(2): 405-419. *these authors contributed equally. Cover Image
  • Ralph SA, van Dooren GG, Waller RF, Crawford MJ, Fraunholz MJ, Foth BJ, Tonkin CJ, Roos DS, McFadden GI. (2004) Metabolic maps and functions of the Plasmodium falciparum apicoplast. Nat Rev Microbiol 2(3): 203-16.

All publications


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