van Dooren Group - Cell biology and metabolism of apicomplexan parasites

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 group 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 and Adele Lehane 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.

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Selected publications

  • Rajendran E, Hapuarachchi SV, Miller CM, Fairweather SJ, Cai Y, Smith NC, Cockburn IA, Bröer S, Kirk K, van Dooren GG (2017) Cationic amino acid transporters play key roles in the survival and transmission of apicomplexan parasites. Nat Commun 16(8): 14455
  • van Dooren GG, Yeoh LM, Striepen B, McFadden GI (2016) The import of proteins into the mitochondrion of Toxoplasma gondii J Biol Chem 291(37): 19335-50
  • 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

Characterisation of a Candidate Protein of the Toxoplasma gondii Mitochondrial ATP Synthase Complex

Event | Fri 13 December 2019
PhD Candidate Edwin Tjhin presents his exit seminar.

BSB Seminar Series - Host-directed therapy for infectious diseases: host cell signalome as a target

Event | Thu 24 October 2019
We have recently implemented an antibody microarray-based approach to systematically assess the host cell signalling response to intracellular pathogens; most of the antibodies on the array are phospho-specific, allowing to monitor the activation of signalling pathways by infections.
Dr Diana Stojanovski, University of Melbourne

Mitochondrial Protein Import in Health and Disease

Event | Thu 17 October 2019
Mitochondrial function and cell viability require a functional and healthy mitochondrial proteome.

Chromatin structure and epigenetics in Plasmodium falciparum

Event | Thu 27 June 2019

 The genome of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum is maintained primarily as transcriptionally competent, euchromatin with only rest

New tools for malaria eradication: integrated packages for geospatial mapping, population-based sampling and high-sensitivity testing

Event | Thu 28 February 2019

Malaria elimination/ eradication has been a global policy for the past decade and has enabled some tremendous achievements.

The Xenotext: Genetically Engineering a Poem for the Future

Event | Thu 29 November 2018

“The Xenotext” is an artistic exercise currently being undertaken by the poet Christian Bök, who proposes to create an example of “living poetry.”

Correlative Light and Electron Microscopy in Biology

Event | Fri 21 September 2018

In recent years correlative microscopy, combining the power and advantages of light and electron microscopy, has become an important tool for biome

Salicylic acid and its binding proteins at the crossroads of plant and human health

Event | Thu 20 September 2018

During the past several years, we have identified over two dozen plant SA-binding proteins (SABPs), primarily through biochemical methods including

Salicylic acid and its binding proteins at the crossroads of plant and human health

Event | Thu 20 September 2018

During the past several years, we have identified over two dozen plant SA-binding proteins (SABPs), primarily through biochemical methods including

Characterising a novel family of amino acid transporters in Toxoplasma gondii.

Event | Thu 9 August 2018

Apicomplexans are a phylum of unicellular eukaryotic parasites that cause a range of diseases in humans, including toxoplasmosis and malaria.