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Clinton Lau

Wellcome CDA Research Fellow

Cellular organisation of the malaria parasite

The malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, uses specialised machinery to invade host cells. This machinery is held at the apical end of the cell, whereas its nucleus, mitochondria and other organelles are held at the basal end. It is not known how the cell sets up and maintains this striking polarisation. One class of proteins proposed to contribute are the various cytoskeletal filaments that form fascinating structures throughout the parasite. This is exemplified by the microtubules, which form a beautiful array along the parasite membrane. However how these filaments link to other structures in the cell to carry out their function remains mysterious.
Our lab is interested in how these filament systems position and shape organelles throughout the parasite cell. We strive to understand the mechanisms by which these proteins function in vitro using structural techniques such as cryo-EM as well as biochemical assays such as single-molecule TIRF microscopy. We also look to establish the network of cytoskeletal proteins using mass spectrometry and examine what happens when you remove these proteins by using CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing.