Faculty of Biological Sciences

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
BIOL5294M - MSc Bioscience Research Project Proposal
BIOL5392M - Bioscience MSc Research Project
BLGY1303 - Tutorials for Biology and Genetics
BLGY2100 - Enhanced Study Skills for Biologists
BLGY2137 - Parasitology
BLGY2201 - Introduction to Bioinformatics
BLGY3021 - Research Project
BLGY3291 - Comparative Genomics
BLGY3340 - Biology Research Projects
BLGY3395 - Advanced Research Skills and Experience
BLGY3396 - Research Literature Review
FOBS1135/BLGY1115 - The Basis of Life/Introduction to Cell Biology: from Molecules to Cells and Tissues

Centre membership: The Antimicrobial Research Centre

Group Leader Dr Glenn McConkey  (Senior Lecturer)

Genomics of host-pathogen interactions and metabolism 

Postgraduates

Mohammad Alsaad (Primary supervisor) 75% FTE
Isra Alsaady (Primary supervisor) 90% FTE
Norhidayah Badya (Primary supervisor) 100% FTE
Ellen Tedford (Primary supervisor) 100% FTE
Francis Isidore Totanes (Primary supervisor) 50% FTE
Zatul-'Iffah Abu Hasan (Co-supervisor) 10% FTE