Dr Glenn McConkey, Assoc Prof

Profile

I graduated with dual majors in Biochemistry and Microbiology & Public Health from Michigan State University and received a Ph.D. in Cellular and Developmental Biology studying transcriptional gene regulation during animal development at the State University of New York in Stony Brook. I was awarded a National Research Council fellowship for postdoctoral research at the National Institutes of Health, USA and was promoted to NIH Senior Staff Fellow. 

I moved to Britain in 1996 to take up a lectureship in Animal Biology and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2004 and to Associate Professor in 2015. My research in Quantitative Biology focuses on interactions of metabolism in host-parasite relationships. My work on modelling metabolism using constraint-based modelling with flux-balance analysis on the parasites responsible for malaria has been groundbreaking (funded by EU), providing hypotheses for experimental testing. My research on a neurotropic parasite is uncovering novel modes of epigenetic regulation in human and rat neurons. 

I have interdisciplinary collaborators in the Biomedical and Health Research Centre, served as Deputy Director of the Antimicrobial Research Centre, and member of Leeds Omics and Africa College. My recent work on parasite metabolism and neurotransmission regulation by a parasite has far-reaching implications on fundamental cell biology.

I am interested in the interactions of animals and their environments and how these alter their metabolism and behavior. We study molecular and cellular interactions of parasites and their host cells and organisms. Our studies focus on a family of single-celled, intracellular protozoan parasites named Apicomplexa that include malaria parasites and the zoonotic parasite Toxoplasma. With 1/3 of the population (principally in tropical areas) at risk of malaria and Toxoplasma infection in circa 20% of the population globally, it is important to understand their interactions with humans and animals and find new treatments. Of particular interest is the effect of Toxoplasma infection on host behaviour.

 

Systems biology analysis of host-parasite metabolic networks in ecosystems

In collaboration with Professor David Westhead, we have developed software, named metaTIGER, for analysis of eukaryotic genomes and mapping biochemical pathway networks and phylogenetic dendograms of enzymes to assess their origins, freely available at www.bioinformatics.leeds.ac.uk/metatiger/, as well as Plasmodium-specific software, PlasmoPredict, openly available at www.bioinformatics.leeds.ac.uk/%7ebio5pmrt/PlasmoPredict/PlasmoPredict.html , for protein identification based on multiple genomics datasets. This provides systems analysis of host-parasite interactions at the genomic level.

Systems biology quantitative analysis of host-parasite metabolic networks

 

Antiparasite drug discovery

An essential enzyme from our network analysis of the human and malaria parasite Plasmodium was validated and is now the target for inhibitor design in an interdisciplinary project with crystallographers and chemists.

Neurotransmitters, behaviour manipulation, and ecosystem structure

Our biochemical network analysis suggests a direct link between behaviour changes in animals infected with Toxoplasma and neurotransmission. Latent infection with Toxoplasma causes a ‘fatal feline attraction’ in infected rodents, originally described by my collaborator Professor Joanne Webster, that increases the likelihood of predation for completion of the parasite’s life cycle. Our finding genomic evidence that this neurotropic parasite can directly alter host behaviour provides the most conclusive example of Darwinian ‘Extended Phenotype’. Neurological effects in human populations, as accidental hosts, has important implications with a large percentage of the population latently infected.

Lab members

Lab members at the Faculty of Biological Sciences

 

Lab members Frances Totanes, Norhidayah Badya, Mohammad Alsaad, Ellen Tedford, and Assoc Prof McConkey; from the Philippines, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, UK and USA/UK, respectively. 

Previous PhD students:

Isra Alsaady, 2017

Francis Totanes, 2017

Mohammad Alsaad

Noha Affan, 2016

Maya Kaushek, 2015

Sarmad Mageed, 2013

Thomas Forth, 2013

Fraser Cunningham, 2013

Ingela Fritzson, 2012

Paul Bedingfield, 2011

Paul Acklam, 2011

Phillip Tedder, 2010

Deborah Cowen, 2009

John Whitaker, 2009

Elizabeth Gaskell, 2008

Timo Heikkila, 2008

John Pinney, 2007

Louisa McRobert, 2001 

Responsibilities

  • Head, Heredity, Disease & Development Research Group
  • Module Manager, BLGY2137, BLGY2201 & BIOL5171M

Research interests

Genomics of host-pathogen interactions and metabolism

Ecology and Evolution

Neuroscience

Heredity, Development and Disease

Leeds Omics

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://biologicalsciences.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Qualifications

  • BS Biochemistry/Microbiology double major, Michigan State; PhD 1987, State University of New York, Stony Brook
  • PhD Cellular and Developmental Biology, State University of New York at Stony Brook

Professional memberships

  • British Society of Parasitology
  • AAAS

Student education

- Neurophysiological consequences of infection with a brain parasite and implications on the animal host's behaviour and neurological disorders

- Bioinformatics and genome analysis to model parasite metabolism for drug evaluation, target identification, and defining host-parasite interactions (Marie Curie ITN).

- Parasite drug target discovery and inhibitor identification for antimalarial and anti parasitic development.


Studentship information

Postgraduate studentship areas:

  • Neurophysiological consequences of infection with a brain parasite and implications on the animal host's behaviour and neurological disorders.
  • Bioinformatics and genome analysis to model parasite metabolism for drug evaluation, target identification, and defining host-parasite interactions (Marie Curie ITN).
  • Parasite drug target discovery and inhibitor identification for antimalarial and anti parasitic development.

See also:

Research groups and institutes

  • Neuroscience
  • Heredity, Development and Disease
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://biologicalsciences.leeds.ac.uk/research-opportunities">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>