My work has focussed on the cell biology of the intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii. During my postdoc, I investigated the molecular mechanisms of how the parasite builds and maintains its remarkable, teardrop-like shape, with a focus on the transmembrane proteins of the periphery of T. gondii.
In my new group, my research will focus on how Toxoplasma acquires and uses iron from its host cells. Iron is an essential nutrient for almost all cell types, from bacteria to the cells that make up our bodies, however it can be difficult to acquire and is toxic in the wrong place. Toxoplasma is the ultimate generalist, it requires a host cell to replicate within, it can grow within any cell type from any warm blooded animal. This means during its lifecycle, the parasite must contend with both high and low iron concentrations and be able to rapidly adapt to its environment.
To decipher the mechanisms involved, we will seek to answer three key questions:
- How does the parasite acquire iron from its host cell?
- How does iron concentration regulate the expression of genes in the parasite?
- Which proteins and pathways are required for the parasite to adapt to changes in the available iron concentration?
By utilising genome-wide CRISPR screens and unbiased proteomics, in combination with targeted genetic approaches, we will seek to understand the role iron plays in these parasites and more about how the parasite responds and adapts to its metabolic environment.