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Ben did his PhD at the University of Adelaide, studying host cell invasion by malaria parasites with Danny Wilson, and is currently a postdoc in Sabrina Absalon’s lab at Indiana University School of Medicine. Broadly, Ben studies the fundamental cell biology of malaria parasites, trying to understand the unique ways these organisms undergo processes like nuclear division and organelle biogenesis in both the mosquito and human-infecting stages of their lifecycle. This presentation will discuss recent findings on how highly organised and polarised sporozoites are formed in the mosquito midgut from a comparatively disorganised oocyst, and how these sporozoites get from the mosquito midgut to the salivary gland, ready for transmission to their next host. Ben’s work is underpinned by advanced microscopy techniques, particularly expansion microscopy and this presentation will show how expansion microscopy can be used to study parasites in 3D from whole-tissue architecture to parasite ultrastructure on the same sample.
Mitochondria are double-membrane organelles found ubiquitously in eukaryotes and are vital in many cellular processes and biosynthetic pathways. Cardiolipin is an unusual cone-shaped phospholipid containing four fatty acyl tails. It is enriched in the inner mitochondrial membrane, predominantly in regions of high membrane curvature. Cardiolipin synthesis is catalysed by the enzyme cardiolipin synthase (CLS), which is localised to the mitochondrial inner membrane. The genomes of apicomplexan parasites such as Toxoplasma gondii encode a bacterial-type CLS, which is fundamentally different from the eukaryotic-type CLS enzyme found in humans and other host species, suggesting that it could serve as a potential drug target. Little is known about the role and importance of cardiolipin and CLS in apicomplexans. To address this gap in knowledge, I sought to elucidate the role of TgCLS in T. gondii parasites. I employed a range of microscopic approaches to investigate the role of TgCLS and CL in mediating mitochondrial morphology. In my seminar, I will tell you more about these results, which demonstrate that cardiolipin lies at the heart of mitochondrial biology in Toxoplasma parasites.