Back, Peter

Peter is in the Immunity, Microbes, & Molecular Pathogenesis home area of the MBIDP.  He joined the CMB training program in 2018.  He received a B.S. degree in Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics from UCLA.

Mentor: Dr. Peter Bradley

Research project:

      Toxoplasma gondii is considered one of the most successful parasites, infecting any mammal and approximately one-third of the world’s human population.  While many infections are asymptomatic, T. gondii is also one of the leading causes of opportunistic infections in AIDS patients and congenitally-infected neonates.  In addition, Toxoplasma is extremely experimentally tractable, serving as a model organism for other apicomplexan parasites such as Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of malaria.  Toxoplasma and its relatives are obligate intracellular parasites that have evolved unique organelles that enable intracellular survival.  One of these is the inner membrane complex (IMC), a specialized organelle comprised of multiple flattened membrane sacs sutured together between the plasma membrane and a supportive cytoskeletal network.  The IMC is necessary for motility and invasion as well as for creating a scaffold to guide daughter cell formation during replication.  Despite these crucial roles in parasite biology, our knowledge of the IMC protein composition and our understanding of its function during development is critically limited.

      The goals of my project will address these gaps:  1) determine the functions of novel IMC proteins that localize primarily to daughter cells;  2) develop a timeline for IMC expression and localization during replication;  3) establish a precise network for the IMC by identifying binding partners between individual proteins.  Successful completion of this project promises to extend our understanding of the role of the IMC in apicomplexan biology and reveal new targets for therapeutic intervention of Toxoplasma and related parasites.