Elaine Hilton

Major: Biology
Purdue School of Science
Supervisor: Dr. Sabrina Absalon and Dr. Benjamin Liffner
Department: Pharmacology and Toxicology Department at IU Medical School

Human Malaria Research

I currently study the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. I am characterizing a protein named Tousled-Like Kinase (TLK) that plays an important role in the poorly understood process of parasite mitosis. Despite the importance of TLK for parasite growth, it is currently unclear if TLK is essential for parasite survival, or what regions of the protein govern its function. I used genetically modified parasites to reduce TLK expression and subsequently generate parasites with mutations that overcome TLK reduction to regain normal parasite growth. By evaluating mutations in these parasites, I will be able to infer regions of TLK that are key to its function in parasite mitosis. Unexpectedly, preliminary experiments showed a possible role of TLK in the sexual stages of the parasite lifecycle, which do not undergo mitosis. These findings enhance our understanding of TLK and will be a focus of my research once we determine the regions of TLK that are important for parasite mitosis.