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Research Fellows Directory

Thomas Martin Embley

Professor Thomas Martin Embley

Research Fellow


Newcastle University

Research summary

I am an evolutionary biologist studying the evolution of the genomes and remnant organelles related to mitochondria (mitosomes), of major human parasitic protozoa. Mitochondria are classically seen as the powerhouses of cells because they produce large amounts of energy. However, the minimal mitochondria (called mitosomes) of parasites like Giardia and microsporidians do not make energy, so their importance for the parasites must lie elsewhere. Microsporidians cause opportunistic infections of patients with HIV/AIDS and they cause chronic diarrhoea in children and the elderly, especially in the developing world. Giardia is the most prevalent parasitic protist in the USA, and is common in populations that do not have access to clean water. I am presently carrying out a detailed program of work to investigate the structure and functions of the mitosomes of microsporidians, and to test the hypothesis that they make essential iron-sulphur clusters that are vital for parasite survival. We are also characterising the transport proteins of Giardia and microsporidian mitosomes, as a route to understanding how mitosomes acquire the energy and other substrates that they need to support their activities. The functional characterization of transport proteins expressed on the cell surface of microsporidians, which are parasites living inside other eukaryotic cells, may provide information about parasite-host inter-dependencies that may be essential for the growth and survival of the parasites.

Grants awarded

The Mitochondrial Endosymbiosis and its Importance for Eukaryotes

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Dates: Mar 2006 - Feb 2011

Value: £155,000

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