Revealing the systems biology of malaria with a super-resolution atlas of the Plasmodium parasite


  • Dr Theo Sanderson

    The Francis Crick Institute

Project summary

Malaria is caused by a single-celled parasite that is more closely related to algae than to bacteria or viruses. The malaria parasite has many unique features not found in well-understood model systems, including specialised organelles, one of which is the relic of a photosynthetic plastid. The parasite encodes about 5,000 proteins but it is unclear where most of these are in the parasite's ultrastructure.

I will work between Prof Mike Blackman's laboratory, which specialises in genetic techniques for manipulating Plasmodium parasites, and Dr Ricardo Henriques's laboratory, which has developed new approaches for super-resolution microscopy. Using their expertise combined with a robotic approach I have developed for parasite culture, I will fluorescently label Plasmodium proteins and build the first systems-level understanding of protein localisation in malaria.

This information is crucial to understanding how the parasite causes disease and how we can prioritise drugs for development.