Professor Paul McKeanHead of Department, Professor of Molecular Parasitology
My research expertise is molecular and cellular parasitology. The main focus of my research at present is the African trypanosome, Trypanosoma brucei; the causative agent of human sleeping sickness and the cattle wasting disease Nagana in sub-Saharan Africa. I have specific interests in (i) understanding the role of novel microtubule associated proteins in regulating cytoskeletal dynamics and cellular morphogenesis and (ii) identifying how proteins are specifically targeted to, and subsequently assembled into, the trypanosome flagellum.
Current projects in my laboratory include:-
- Tubulin cofactor C-domain containing proteins in trypanosomes
- Targeting of proteins to the eukaryotic flagellum
- Novel microtubule-associated proteins and trypanosome cell division
The major research interest of my laboratory is in the cell biology of the flagellated protozoan parasites Trypanosoma brucei and Leishmania major. My interest in these organisms is two-fold: firstly because these organisms are parasites of medical and veterinary importance; and secondly because they are useful model organisms in which to study the biogenesis of the eukaryotic flagellum. By providing a better understanding of the molecular composition of the eukaryotic flagellum and the roles of specific proteins we aim to provide a greater understanding of human diseases that are characterised by functional and/or structural abnormalities of cilia and flagella.
Key scientific achievements made by my research group at Lancaster include:
- Generation of a T. brucei flagellum proteome (in collaboration with Keith Gull -University of Oxford and Simon Gaskell - Manchester University). This seminal study also demonstrated flagellar motility is essential for viability of bloodstream form T. brucei - validating the flagellum as a target for new drug development.
- Demonstration that TbRP2 (homologue of human XRP2 which is implicated in retinal degenerative disease) is located at transitional fibres radiating from the mature basal body. Our studies established that TbRP2 is critical for flagellum assembly and provided new insight into the role of RP2 in flagellum formation.
- Demonstration that the Tubulin-Binding Cofactor C Domain-Containing protein TBCCD1 orchestrates cytoskeletal filament formation in trypanosomes. Our studies suggest the co-option of the TBCC domain for an essential, non-tubulin-related function at an early point during evolution of the eukaryotic cytoskeleton.
Funding for my research has come from the BBSRC and The Royal Society.
- Biol123 Infection and Immunity: introduction to infectious organisms and host immune system; selected infections are studied in detail to illustrate principles of host/pathogen interactions (also Module Organiser).
- BIOL314 Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology: focus on the molecular, biochemical and cellular interactions between protozoan parasites and their hosts (also Module Organiser).
- Special Study Modules: structured reviews and laboratory-based projects for Lancaster University Medical Students.
As Associate Dean for Postgraduate Education in the Faculty of Health and Medicine, I am responsible for developing and promoting all aspects of postgraduate learning and teaching in the Faculty. I am also responisble for ensuring that academic quality and standards are maintained in matters concerned with the development, ongoing monitoring and review of all postgraduate programmes.
- BSc (Hons) Zoology, University of Nottingham, 1985
- Ph.D. University of Nottingham, 1989
- 1989 -1992 Postdoctoral research assistant, Division of Parasitology, National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill London
- Beit Memorial Fellow for Medical Research, Department of Biochemistry, Imperial College, London.
- 1995 -1999 Postdoctoral research assistant, Department of Biochemistry, Imperial College, London.
- 1999 - 2001 Research Fellow, School of Biological Sciences, University of Manchester
- Lecturer in Biological Sciences, Lancaster University
- Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences, Lancaster University
PhD Supervision Interests
I can offer PhD and MSc by research projects in the following areas of research: (1) The developmental cell biology of African trypanosomes. (2) Trypanosomes as models to study proteins implicated in human ciliary diseases. Please contact me for further details. (No funded positions are currently available).