The McFadden lab is interested in malaria, corals and endosymbiosis.
The connection between these three topics is symbiosis and the origin of organelles such as plastids and mitochondria. McFadden had a central role in the discovery of a relict plastid in apicomplexan parasites like Toxoplasma and malaria.
The plastid, referred to as the apicoplast, is non-photosynthetic but still essential and is the focus of several antimalarials such as doxycycline, which blocks protein synthesis in the malaria parasite plastid and kills the parasites.
McFadden’s group is also exploring ways to block parasite resistance to drugs that target the malaria parasite mitochondrion because drug resistance is a major obstacle to disease control. A new collaboration with Prof Madeleine van Oppen will investigate the symbiotic partnership between cnidarians (corals and anemones) with dinoflagellate algae.
This partnership is essential to coral reef viability, but the molecular mechanism of symbiosis is largely unknown. We seek to understand how symbionts are recruited, how they feed the animal host, and how symbiont numbers are regulated in the partnership.