We work on the identification, heterologous expression, and characterisation of membrane transport proteins (also known as transporters). Transporters control the movement of ions, nutrients, and waste products across the membranes of a cell and are central to its physiology. Proteins of this type also serve as drug targets and/or mediators of drug transport and hence play key roles in the phenomenon of drug resistance. We have a particular interest in the transporters involved in drug action and drug resistance in the malaria parasite. The malaria parasite is a single-celled microorganism which invades the red blood cells of its host. Malaria remains a major infectious disease in many parts of the world, causing over 200 million cases and around 500,000 deaths per year. Moreover, malaria imposes horrendous economic burdens upon afflicted countries. An effective vaccine remains elusive and reliance on chemotherapy is under serious threat with the emergence of parasites that are resistant to most, if not all, of the current antimalarial drugs. Our main experimental system is the unfertilised oocyte of the frog Xenopus laevis, in which we express and study transporters from the parasite as well as from a range of other organisms. We complement this system with live parasite assays that indirectly monitor the activity of a transporter within its native environment of the parasite-infected red blood cell.
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