Dr Glenn McConkey

BS Biochemistry/Microbiology double major, Michigan State; PhD 1987, State University of New York, Stony Brook
Senior Lecturer
School of Biology

Background: Glenn McConkey graduated with majors in both Biochemistry and Microbiology and Public Health from Michigan State University and received a Ph.D. in Cellular and Developmental Biology studying transcriptional gene regulation during animal development. He 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. Glenn 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. His research focuses on interactions of metabolism in host-parasite relationships and impact on host behaviour. He established a malaria drug discovery programme with interdisciplinary collaborators in the Biomedical and Health Research Centre, serves as Deputy Director of the Antimicrobial Research Centre, and member of Leeds Omics and Africa College. His recent work on parasite metabolism and animal behaviour has far-reaching implications on ecosystem structure.

Contact: Miall 8.23, +44(0) 113 34 32908, email address for  

Research Interests

Genomics of host-pathogen interactions and metabolism

cat and mouse

(Image from The Economist, 3 June 2010)

I am interested in environmental influences on animals and how these effect ecosystems and biodiversity. We study how parasites interact with their animal hosts at the molecular level. 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 >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,meta tiger logo 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.

Model visual

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

Cyst on brainOur 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

McConkey lab members

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:

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


Faculty Research and Innovation

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:

Modules managed

BIOL5171M - Infectious & Non-infectious Diseases
BLGY2137 - Parasitology
BLGY2201 - Introduction to Bioinformatics

Modules taught

BIOL5171M - Infectious & Non-infectious Diseases
BLGY1303 - Tutorials for Biology and Genetics
BLGY2100 - Enhanced Study Skills for Biologists
BLGY2137 - Parasitology
BLGY2201 - Introduction to Bioinformatics
BLGY3291 - Comparative Genomics
BLGY3345 - Biology Integrated Research Projects
BLGY3395 - Advanced Research Skills and Experience
BLGY3396 - Research Literature Review
BLGY5380M - Extended Research Project
FOBS1135/BLGY1115 - The Basis of Life/Introduction to Cell Biology: from Molecules to Cells and Tissues
MICR2221 - Medical Immunology

Centre membership: The Antimicrobial Research Centre

Group Leader Dr Glenn McConkey  (Senior Lecturer)

Genomics of host-pathogen interactions and metabolism 


Norhidayah Badya (Primary supervisor) 100% FTE
Supannee Taweechai (Primary supervisor) 100% FTE
Ellen Tedford (Primary supervisor) 100% FTE

Tedford E, McConkey G Neurophysiological Changes Induced by Chronic Toxoplasma gondii Infection Pathogens 6, 2017
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McConkey GA, Bedingfield PTP, Burrell DR, Chambers NC, Cunningham F, Prior TJ, Fishwick CWG, Boa AN Interconvertible geometric isomers of Plasmodium falciparum dihydroorotate dehydrogenase inhibitors exhibit multiple binding modes Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters 27 3878-3882, 2017
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Totanes FI, Shameer S, Westhead DR, Jourdan F, McConkey GA Understanding Protozoan Parasitemetabolism and Identifying Drug Targets Through Constraint-Based Modeling In A Comprehensive Analysis of Parasite Biology: From Metabolism to Drug Discovery, 2016
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Dubey JP, Ferreira LR, Alsaad M, Verma SK, Alves DA, Holland GN, McConkey GA Experimental Toxoplasmosis in Rats Induced Orally with Eleven Strains of Toxoplasma gondii of Seven Genotypes: Tissue Tropism, Tissue Cyst Size, Neural Lesions, Tissue Cyst Rupture without Reactivation, and Ocular Lesions. PLoS ONE 11, 2016
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Webster JP, Lamberton PHL, McConkey GA The Toxoplasma gondii Model of Schizophrenia In Handbook of Behavioral Neuroscience, 2016
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Martin HL, Alsaady I, Howell G, Prandovszky E, Peers C, Robinson P, McConkey GA Effect of parasitic infection on dopamine biosynthesis in dopaminergic cells Neuroscience 306 50-62, 2015
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McConkey GA, Peers C, Prandovszky E Reproducing Increased Dopamine with Infection To Evaluate the Role of Parasite-Encoded Tyrosine Hydroxylase Activity INFECTION AND IMMUNITY 83 3334-3335, 2015

Mageed SN, Cunningham F, Hung AW, Silvestre HL, Wen S, Blundell TL, Abell C, McConkey GA Pantothenic acid biosynthesis in the parasite Toxoplasma gondii: a target for chemotherapy. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 58 6345-6353, 2014
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McConkey GA, Martin HL, Bristow GC, Webster JP Toxoplasma gondii infection and behaviour - location, location, location? J Exp Biol 216 113-119, 2013
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Webster JP, Kaushik M, Bristow GC, McConkey GA Toxoplasma gondii infection, from predation to schizophrenia: Can animal behaviour help us understand human behaviour? Journal of Experimental Biology 216 99-112, 2013
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Bedingfield PTP, Cowen D, Acklam P, Cunningham F, Parsons MR, McConkey GA, Fishwick CWG, Johnson AP Factors influencing the specificity of inhibitor binding to the human and malaria parasite dihydroorotate dehydrogenases. J Med Chem 55 5841-5850, 2012
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Fritzson I, Bedingfield PTP, Sundin AP, McConkey G, Nilsson UJ N-Substituted salicylamides as selective malaria parasite dihydroorotate dehydrogenase inhibitors MEDCHEMCOMM 2 895-898, 2011

Prandovszky E, Gaskell E, Martin H, Dubey JP, Webster JP, McConkey GA The neurotropic parasite Toxoplasma gondii increases dopamine metabolism. PLoS One 6 e23866-, 2011
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Tedder PMR, Bradford JR, Needham CJ, McConkey GA, Bulpitt AJ, Westhead DR Gene function prediction using semantic similarity clustering and enrichment analysis in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum BIOINFORMATICS 26 2431-2437, 2010

Forth T, McConkey GA, Westhead DR MetNetMaker: a free and open-source tool for the creation of novel metabolic networks in SBML format BIOINFORMATICS 26 2352-2353, 2010

Webster JP, McConkey GA Toxoplasma gondii-altered host behaviour: clues as to mechanism of action FOLIA PARASIT 57 95-104, 2010

Tedder PMR, Bradford JR, McConkey GA, Bulpitt AJ, Westhead DR PlasmoPredict: a gene function prediction website for Plasmodium falciparum TRENDS PARASITOL 26 107-110, 2010

Cowen D, Bedingfield P, McConkey GA, Fishwick CWG, Johnson AP A study of the effects of substituents on the selectivity of the binding of N-arylaminomethylene malonate inhibitors to DHODH BIOORG MED CHEM LETT 20 1284-1287, 2010

Whitaker JW, Westhead DR, McConkey GA Alio intuitu: the automated reconstruction of the metabolic networks of parasites TRENDS PARASITOL 25 396-397, 2009

Whitaker JW, McConkey GA, Westhead DR Prediction of horizontal gene transfers in eukaryotes: approaches and challenges BIOCHEMICAL SOCIETY TRANSACTIONS 37 792-795, 2009

Davies M, Heikkila T, McConkey GA, Fishwick CWG, Parsons MR, Johnson AP Structure-Based Design, Synthesis, and Characterization of Inhibitors of Human and Plasmodium falciparum Dihydroorotate Dehydrogenases J MED CHEM 52 2683-2693, 2009

Wambua L, Mcconkey G, Westhead DR Discovery of Novel Drug Targets Against Pathogenic Protozoa: The Promise of Metabolic Reconstruction INFECT GENET EVOL 9 375-375, 2009

Gaskell EA, Smith JE, Pinney JW, Westhead DR, McConkey GA A Unique Dual Activity Amino Acid Hydroxylase in Toxoplasma gondii PLOS ONE 4, 2009

Whitaker JW, McConkey GA, Westhead DR The transferome of metabolic genes explored: analysis of the horizontal transfer of enzyme encoding genes in unicellular eukaryotes. Genome Biol 10 R36-, 2009
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Whitaker JW, Letunic I, McConkey GA, Westhead DR metaTIGER: a metabolic evolution resource NUCLEIC ACIDS RES 37 D531-D538, 2009

Pinney JW, Papp B, Hyland C, Warnbua L, Westhead DR, McConkey GA Metabolic reconstruction and analysis for parasite genomes TRENDS PARASITOL 23 548-554, 2007

Espinosa S, McConkey GA, Heikkila T, Vlaar CP Synthesis of cyclic disulfides as possible antimalarial agents ABSTR PAP AM CHEM S 233 653-653, 2007

Heikkila T, Ramsey C, Davies M, Galtier C, Stead AMW, Johnson AP, Fishwick CWG, Boa AN, McConkey GA Design and synthesis of potent inhibitors of the malaria parasite dihydroorotate dehydrogenase J MED CHEM 50 186-191, 2007

Baldwin SA, McConkey GA, Cass CE, Young JD Nucleoside transport as a potential target for chemotherapy in malaria CURR PHARM DESIGN 13 569-580, 2007

Rathjen T, Nicol C, McConkey G, Dalmay T Analysis of short RNAs in the malaria parasite and its red blood cell host FEBS LETT 580 5185-5188, 2006

Hyland C, Pinney JW, McConkey GA, Westhead DR metaSHARK: a WWW platform for interactive exploration of metabolic networks NUCLEIC ACIDS RES 34 W725-W728, 2006

Heikkila T, Thirumalairajan S, Davies M, Parsons MR, McConkey AG, Fishwick CWG, Johnson AP The first de novo designed inhibitors of Plasmodium falciparum dihydroorotate dehydrogenase BIOORG MED CHEM LETT 16 88-92, 2006

McRobert L, Jiang S, Stead A, McConkey GA Plasmodium falciparum: interaction of shikimate analogues with antimalarial drugs. Exp Parasitol 111 178-181, 2005
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McConkey GA Not just for the birds Trends in Parasitology 21 308-309, 2005

Boa AN, Canavan SP, Hirst PR, Ramsey C, Stead AMW, McConkey GA Synthesis of brequinar analogue inhibitors of malaria parasite dihydroorotate dehydrogenase. Bioorg Med Chem 13 1945-1967, 2005
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Pinney JW, Shirley MW, McConkey GA, Westhead DR metaSHARK: software for automated metabolic network prediction from DNA sequence and its application to the genomes of Plasmodium falciparum and Eimeria tenella NUCLEIC ACIDS RES 33 1399-1409, 2005

Grim KC, McCutchan T, Li J, Sullivan M, Graczyk TK, McConkey G, Cranfield M Preliminary results of an anticircumsporozoite DNA vaccine trial for protection against avian malaria in captive African black-footed penguins (Spheniscus demersus) J ZOO WILDLIFE MED 35 154-161, 2004

McConkey GA, Pinney JW, Westhead DR, Plueckhahn K, Fitzpatrick TB, Macheroux P, Kappes B Annotating the Plasmodium genome and the enigma of the shikimate pathway TRENDS PARASITOL 20 60-65, 2004

Bruning-Richardson A, McConkey GA RNAi in the Malaria Parasite Plasmodium In Gene Silencing by RNA Interferences: Technology and Applications, 2004

Pinney JW, Westhead DR, McConkey GA Petri Net representations in systems biology BIOCHEMICAL SOCIETY TRANSACTIONS 31 1513-1515, 2003

McRobert L, McConkey GA RNA interference (RNAi) inhibits growth of Plasmodium falciparum. Mol Biochem Parasitol 119 273-278, 2002
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Parker MD, Hyde RJ, Yao SY, McRobert L, Cass CE, Young JD, McConkey GA, Baldwin SA Identification of a nucleoside/nucleobase transporter from Plasmodium falciparum, a novel target for anti-malarial chemotherapy. Biochem J 349 67-75, 2000
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Heal KG, McConkey GA, Hormaeche CE, Hollingdale MR, Khan CMA, Taylor-Robinson AW Expression of TetC fusion proteins from Salmonella in a gaseous environment that models conditions pound in mammalian tissues BIOTECHNIQUES 28 228-+, 2000

McConkey GA Plasmodium falciparum: isolation and characterisation of a gene encoding protozoan GMP synthase. Exp Parasitol 94 23-32, 2000
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van Spaendonk RM, McConkey GA, Ramesar J, Gabrielian A, McCutchan TF, Janse CJ, Waters AP Identification of the transcription initiation site of the asexually expressed rRNA genes of the malaria parasite Plasmodium berghei. Mol Biochem Parasitol 99 193-205, 1999
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McConkey GA Targeting the shikimate pathway in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 43 175-177, 1999
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McConkey GA, Rogers MJ, McCutchan TF Inhibition of Plasmodium falciparum protein synthesis. Targeting the plastid-like organelle with thiostrepton. J Biol Chem 272 2046-2049, 1997
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McConkey GA, Li J, Rogers MJ, Seeley DC, Graczyk TK, Cranfield MR, McCutchan TF Parasite diversity in an endemic region for avian malaria and identification of a parasite causing penguin mortality. J Eukaryot Microbiol 43 393-399, 1996
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Rogers MJ, Gutell RR, Damberger SH, Li J, McConkey GA, Waters AP, McCutchan TF Structural features of the large subunit rRNA expressed in Plasmodium falciparum sporozoites that distinguish it from the asexually expressed subunit rRNA. RNA 2 134-145, 1996
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Rogers MJ, McConkey GA, Li J, McCutchan TF The ribosomal DNA loci in Plasmodium falciparum accumulate mutations independently. J Mol Biol 254 881-891, 1995
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Li J, Wirtz RA, McConkey GA, Sattabongkot J, Waters AP, Rogers MJ, McCutchan TF Plasmodium: genus-conserved primers for species identification and quantitation. Exp Parasitol 81 182-190, 1995
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McCutchan TF, Li J, McConkey GA, Rogers MJ, Waters AP The cytoplasmic ribosomal RNAs of Plasmodium spp. Parasitol Today 11 134-138, 1995
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van Dijk MR, McConkey GA, Vinkenoog R, Waters AP, Janse CJ Mechanisms of pyrimethamine resistance in two different strains of Plasmodium berghei. Mol Biochem Parasitol 68 167-171, 1994

Li J, McConkey GA, Rogers MJ, Waters AP, McCutchan TR Plasmodium: the developmentally regulated ribosome. Exp Parasitol 78 437-441, 1994

Li J, Wirtz RA, McConkey GA, Sattabongkot J, McCutchan TF Transition of Plasmodium vivax ribosome types corresponds to sporozoite differentiation in the mosquito. Mol Biochem Parasitol 65 283-289, 1994
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McConkey GA, Ittarat I, Meshnick SR, McCutchan TF Auxotrophs of Plasmodium falciparum dependent on p-aminobenzoic acid for growth. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 91 4244-4248, 1994
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McConkey GA, Waters AP, McCutchan TF The generation of genetic diversity in malaria parasites. Annu Rev Microbiol 44 479-498, 1990
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McConkey GA, Bogenhagen DF TFIIIA binds with equal affinity to somatic and major oocyte 5S RNA genes. Genes Dev 2 205-214, 1988
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McConkey GA, Bogenhagen DF Transition mutations within the Xenopus borealis somatic 5S RNA gene can have independent effects on transcription and TFIIIA binding. Mol Cell Biol 7 486-494, 1987
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