van Dooren Group - Cell biology and metabolism of apicomplexan parasites

Toxoplasma gondii 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.



Giel Van Dooren

Giel Van Dooren
I completed a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Melbourne (2000) studying topics as varied as...

Adjunct Professor

Divisional Visitor

PhD Student

Visiting Fellow


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

News & events


January is not normally thought of as a teaching-heavy month, but RSB members were involved in a number of outreach events early this year.
'Concepts in Parasitology' student
The future of parasite research in Australia will be in safe hands as 16 young Australian scientists converged for an intensive 2-week workshop with world-leading biologists to study worms, protozoans, ticks, fleas, lice and more.
ARC logo
The School has done very well with regards to Discovery projects and DECRA fellowships. Congratulations to all successful applicants.
ARC logo
The Research School of Biology achieved a 52% success rate in the recently-announced ARC Discovery Grant round, as well as significant success in the ARC Linkage and LIEF Grant schemes.


Linden Muellner-Wong awarded RSB Director's Prize in Honours

Linden Muellner-Wong has won a 2017 RSB Director's Prize in Honours.   She spent her honours year in Giel van Dooren's group, and her thesis is entitled 'Characterising an apicomplexan specific protein named IMP1 in Toxoplasma gondii'.

Updated:  19 November 2019/Responsible Officer:  Director RSB/Page Contact:  Webmaster RSB