New Bolton Center Kennett Square, PA
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Parasitology Seminar Series

Aoife Heaslip, PhD, "Dynamic actin networks facilitate cargo transport in Toxoplasma gondii"


Title: "Dynamic actin networks facilitate cargo transport in Toxoplasma gondii

Speaker: Aoife Heaslip PhD 

Aoife Heaslip, PhD
Assistant Professor,
Molecular and Cell Biology/Cell and Developmental Biology,
University of Connecticut


The human pathogen Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) causes life-threatening disease in immunocompromised individuals and when infection occurs in utero. Survival and disease pathogenesis are dependent on host cell invasion, intracellular replication and egress, which results in destruction of the infected cells. T. gondii expresses a single divergent actin gene (TgAct1) that is essential for successful completion of this lytic cycle. This isoform shares only 83% similarity to mammalian isoforms and was originally shown to be essential for the gliding motility of the parasite, host cell invasion and egress. More recent studies have greatly expanded our understanding of other essential functions of actin in intracellular parasites. These include: inheritance of a non-photosynthetic plastid organelle named the apicoplast, the directed movement of secretory vesicles called dense granules and conoid extension. T. gondii contains a remarkably dynamic actin network within the parasite cytosol. However, the biophysical properties of Toxoplasma actin have been intensely debated in the literature and the mechanisms by which actin is organized in the parasite is not understood. In this talk I will present our recent work characterizing Toxoplasma actin in vitro, and discuss in vivo studies that identified a parasite specific myosin involved in actin organization.


Aoife Heaslip received her PhD degree from the University of Vermont under the mentorship of Dr. Gary Ward in 2008. Aoife then moved to Indiana University and worked as a postdoctoral associate with Dr. Ke Hu. She then returned to Vermont to complete a second postdoc with Dr. David Warshaw, an expert in myosin biophysics. In 2017, Aoife started her own research group which is focused on understanding cargo transport and actin organization in Toxoplasma gondii.

Date: Monday, October 9, 2023
Time: 12-1 pm

Location: Hill 132 and Virtually Via Zoom

Questions? Please contact Michael Black if you have questions.

Date and Time


Michael Black