• Affiliate Professor, Global Health
Marilyn Parsons

Center for Infectious Disease Research
307 Westlake Ave N, Suite 500
Seattle, WA 98109
United States

Phone Number: 
206-256-7315
Fax: 
206-256-7229
Email: 
mparsons@uw.edu
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Biography 

Among different disease agents, parasites are the most similar to their human hosts. This has made the search for drugs and vaccines highly challenging. Scientists in Dr. Parsons' laboratory aim to identify differences between host and parasite that could serve as targets for drug development.

The lab has studied Trypanosoma brucei (African trypanosomes), Leishmania, and Toxoplasma gondii, which cause African sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis, and toxoplasmosis, respectively. Left untreated, sleeping sickness is fatal, but therapy is toxic and facing resistance. WHO estimates that 12 million people are infected with Leishmania. Although some show no signs of disease, co-infection with HIV leads to severe, often fatal, leishmaniasis. T. gondii infects approximately 50 million Americans, causing encephalitis in immunocompromised persons, as well as birth defects similar to Zika infections. Currently, the focus of research is on protein kinases since drugs can successfully be developed against this important class of enzymes. In Toxoplasma, we are participating in a drug discovery project aimed at inhibiting parasite invasion by targeting the protein kinase CDPK1. In T. brucei, we are now studying an essential protein kinase, which is required for proper cell division.

Dr. Parsons has participated in numerous workshops on parasitic diseases for graduate students in India and East Africa. She also teaches biology of global diseases for undergraduates.

Education 
  • PhD (Stanford University)
  • BA (University of Kansas)
Country Affiliations 
Languages 
  • French
Health Topics 
  • Neglected Diseases, Trop. Med. (incl. Parasites)
  • Pathobiology
Pathobiology research areas 
Expertise 

Molecular and cellular parasitology

Publications 

Parsons, M., Worthey, E.A., Ward, P.N., and Mottram, J.C. (2005) Comparative analysis of the kinomes of three pathogenic trypanosomatids: Leishmania major, Trypanosoma brucei, and Trypanosoma cruzi. BMC Genomics 6: 127. PMCID: PMC1266030

Worthen, C., Jensen, B.C., and Parsons, M. (2010) Diverse effects on mitochondrial and nuclear functions elicited by drugs and genetic knockdowns in bloodstream stage Trypanosoma brucei, PLoS NTDs, 4:e678. PMCID: PMC2864271.

Kayode K. Ojo, K.K., Larson, E.T., Keyloun, K.R., Castaneda, L.J., DeRocher, A.E., Inampudi, K.K., Kim, J.E., Tracy L. Arakaki, T.L., Murphy, R., Zhang, L., Napuli, A.J., Maly, D.J., Verlinde, C.M., Buckner, F.S., Parsons, M., Hol, W.J.G., Merritt, E.A., and Van Voorhis, W.C. (2010) A unique variation of the ATP binding site makes Toxoplasma gondii calcium-dependent protein kinase 1 a drug target for selective kinase inhibitors. Nat. Struct. Mol. Biol., 17: 602-507. PMCID: PMC2896873.

Jensen, B.C., Ramasamy, G., Vasconcelos, E.J.R., Ingolia, N.T., Myler, P.J., and Parsons, M. (2014) Extensive stage-regulation of translation revealed by ribosome profiling of Trypanosoma brucei. BMC Genomics 15:911. PMCID: PMC4210626.

Jensen, B.C., Booster, N., Vidadala, R.S.R., Maly, D.J., and Parsons, M. (2016) A novel protein kinase is essential in bloodstream Trypanosoma brucei. Int. J. Parasitol., 46: pp. 479-483. NIHMSID: 772127.
A membrane protease is targeted to the relict plastid of toxoplasma via an internal signal sequence. Karnataki A, Derocher AE, Coppens I, Feagin JE, Parsons M.
Traffic. 2007 Nov;8(11):1543-53. Epub 2007 Sep 6.

Conservation of PEX19-binding motifs required for protein targeting to mammalian peroxisomal and trypanosome glycosomal membranes. Saveria T, Halbach A, Erdmann R, Volkmer-Engert R, Landgraf C, Rottensteiner H, Parsons M.
Eukaryot Cell. 2007 Aug;6(8):1439-49. Epub 2007 Jun 22.

Kayode K. Ojo, K.K., Larson, E.T., Keyloun, K.R., Castaneda, L.J., DeRocher, A.E., Inampudi, K.K., Kim, J.E., Tracy L. Arakaki, T.L., Murphy, R., Zhang, L., Napuli, A.J., Maly, D.J., Verlinde, C.M., Buckner, F.S., Parsons, M., Hol, W.J.G., Merritt, E.A., and Van Voorhis, W.C. (2010) A Unique variation of the ATP binding site makes Toxoplasma gondii calcium-dependent protein kinase 1 a drug target for selective kinase inhibitors. Nat. Struct. Mol. Biol., 17: 602-507. PMCID: PMC2896873.

Flaspohler, J.A., Jensen, B.C., Saveria, T., Kifer, C.T., and Parsons, M. (2010) A novel protein kinase localized to lipid droplets is required for droplet biogenesis in trypanosomes. Eukaryotic Cell, 9: 17-2-1710. PMCID: PMC2976304.

Surve, S., Heestand, M., Panicucci, B., Schnaufer, A., and Parsons, M. (2012). Enigmatic presence of mitochondrial complex I in Trypanosoma brucei bloodstream forms. Eukaryotic Cell, 11:183-193. (Spotlight article). PMCID: PMC3272898.

DeRocher, A.E., Karnataki, A., Vaney, P., and Parsons, M. (2012). Apicoplast targeting of a T. gondii transmembrane protein requires a cytosolic tyrosine-based motif. Traffic, 123: 694-704. PMCID: PMC3324616.

Kalidas, S., Cestari, I., Monnerat, S., Li, Q., Regmi, S., Hasle, N., Labaied, M., Parsons, M., Stuart, K., Phillips, M.A. (2014) Genetic validation of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases as drug targets in Trypanosoma brucei. Eukaryot Cell. 13:504-16. PMCID: PMC4000095.

Jensen, B.C., Ramasamy, G., Vasconcelos, E.J.R., Ingolia, N.T., Myler, P.J., and Parsons, M. (2014) Extensive stage-regulation of translation revealed by ribosome profiling of Trypanosoma brucei. BMC Genomics 15:911.