Dr Catherine Merrick

Title: Senior Lecturer in Biology
Phone: +44 (0)1782 734111
Email: c.merrick@keele.ac.uk
Location: Huxley Building : 204B
Role:
Contacting me: Try my office or arrange an appointment by e-mail.

I studied for my BA at Cambridge University, where I gained a double first in Natural Sciences and also participated in the Cold Spring Harbor undergraduate research program.  I then completed a PhD in Cell Biology at Cancer Research UK, before moving to the Harvard School of Public Health where I held a Charles H. Hood postdoctoral fellowship and began to study the epigenetic control of virulence genes in the malaria parasite.  During my postdoc, I also conducted a field study at the MRC Institute in The Gambia, investigating clinical phenotypes and the expression of virulence genes in patients with malaria. 

Upon returning to the UK, I worked briefly as a sub-editor at Nature, then joined the Keele Life Sciences faculty in autumn 2011.  In my first year of appointment, I established a research group at Keele, winning two Research Council grants from the MRC and BBSRC; I also gained my Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching & Learning in Higher Education and took on teaching responsibilities in parasitology and other areas. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in spring 2016 and my research group is currently funded by MRC and ERC consolidator grants awarded in 2016.  In spring 2018, I will be moving to a Senior Lectureship at the Cambridge University Pathology Department.

At Keele, my laboratory is part of the Centre for Applied Entomology and Parasitology (CAEP), where I organised the CAEP seminar series until 2016: please now contact Dr Helen Price if you are interested in giving a seminar or suggesting a speaker. 

I have been on the Council of the British Society for Parasitology since 2012; I was a section organiser for the 2013 BSP Spring Meeting and am the BSP Communications Secretary 2015-2018.  Please contact me if you have a news item or event to advertise via the society.

malaria

My research focuses on the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, with the goal of improving our understanding of the parasite’s basic biology and the impact of this biology on virulence. I use molecular genetics together with cell biology and biochemical techniques to study this important disease-causing organism.

Image shows Plasmodium falciparum parasites inside human red blood cells.

Areas of interest include mechanisms for silencing and promoting the recombination of a family of virulence genes called var genes - particularly the role that G-quadruplex DNA structures may play in var gene control.  Var genes encode the major parasite antigen expressed on infected red blood cells; they are found primarily at sub-telomeric loci and their variant expression is under epigenetic control.  G-quadruplexes and their helicases may also have more general roles in genome stability in the malaria parasite.  I am also interested in the molecular mechanisms underlying DNA replication and cell cycle control in Plasmodium, which replicates by an unusual method called 'schizogony'.  Finally, I have a long-standing interest in a group of NAD+-dependent deacetylase enzymes called ‘sirtuins’ which regulate subtelomeric chromatin and virulence gene expression.  My previous work linked the Plasmodium falciparum sirtuins to particular patterns of var gene expression and to severe malaria in human patients.

See also the Centre for Applied Entomology & Parasitology: CAEP Homepage.

Please contact me by email if you are interested in PhD or postdoctoral work in these areas. If funded positions are available, they will be advertised here, and I am happy to discuss possible projects for fellowship applications with qualified candidates.  Note that in spring 2018 the lab will be moving to Cambridge University.

See also Google Scholar and Research Gate pages.

In Press

'Perspectives in Parasitology: Plasmodium falciparum.'
Merrick, C.J. In press, Emerging Topics in Life Sciences upcoming issue 'Perspectives in Parasitology' (publication date Dec 22, 2017).

'G-quadruplex DNA motifs in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum and their potential as novel antimalarial drug targets.'
Harris, L.M., Monsell, K., Famodimu, M.T., Smargiasso, N., Damblon, C., Horrocks, P., Merrick, C.J. Under revision for Antimicrobial Agents & Chemotherapy (2017).

Published

'Single-molecule Analysis Reveals that DNA Replication Dynamics Vary Across the Course of Schizogony in the Malaria Parasite Plasmodium falciparum.'
Stanojcic, S., Kuk, N., Ullah, I., Sterkers, Y., Merrick, C.J. Scientific Reports 7:4003 DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-04407-z (2017).

'G-quadruplexes: prediction, characterization, and biological application.' (REVIEW)
Kwok, C.K. and Merrick, C.J.  Trends in Biotechnology  DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tibtech.2017.06.012 (2017).

'Recombination events among virulence genes in malaria parasites are associated with G-quadruplex-forming DNA motifs.'
Stanton, A., Harris, L.M., Graham, G., Merrick, C.J.  BMC Genomics 17:859 DOI:10.1186/s12864-016-3183-3 (2016).

'SEC-SANS: Size Exclusion Chromatography Combined In Situ With Small Angle Neutron Scattering.'
Jordan, A., Jacques, M., Merrick, C.J., Devos, J., Forsyth, V.T., Porcar, L., Martel, A.  Journal of Applied Crystallography, 49 https://doi.org/10.1107/S1600576716016514 (2016)

'Transfection with thymidine kinase permits bromodeoxyuridine labelling of DNA replication in the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.'
Merrick, C.J. Malaria Journal 14:490. doi: 10.1186/s12936-015-1014-7 (2015).

'G-quadruplexes in pathogens: a common route to virulence control?' (REVIEW)
Harris, L.M. and Merrick, C.J. PLoS Pathogens 11(2):e1004562. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004562 (2015).

'Functional analysis of sirtuin genes in multiple Plasmodium falciparum strains.’
Merrick, C.J.,
Jiang, H. R., Skillman, K.M., Samarakoon, U., Moore, R.M., Dzikowski, R., Ferdig, M.T., Duraisingh M.T.  PlosOne 10(3):e0118865. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118865 (2015).

'A quantitative analysis of Plasmodium falciparum transfection using DNA-loaded erythrocytes.'
Hasenkamp, S., Merrick, C.J., Horrocks, P.  Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology 187(2), 117-120 (2013).

‘Epigenetic dysregulation of virulence gene expression in severe Plasmodium falciparum malaria.’
Merrick, C.J.,
Huttenhower, C., Buckee, C.O., Amambua-Ngwa, A., Gomez-Escobar, N.,Walther, M., Conway, D.J., Duraisingh M.T.  Journal of Infectious Diseases, 205(10), 1593-1600 (2012).

‘Plasmodium Epigenetics: What do we really know?’ (REVIEW)
Merrick, C.J. and Duraisingh, M.T.  Eukaryot Cell, 9(8), 1150-8 (2010).

‘The effect of Plasmodium falciparum Sir2a histone deacetylase on clonal and longitudinal variation in expression of the var family of virulence genes.’
Merrick, C.J., Dzikowski, R., Imamura, H., Chuang, J., Deitsch, K., Duraisingh, M.T. Int. J.Parasitol. 40, 35-43 (2010).

Plasmodium falciparum Sir2: An unusual sirtuin with dual histone deacetylase and ADP-ribosyltransferase activity.’
Merrick, C.J. and Duraisingh, M.T.  Eukaryot Cell, 6(11), 2081-2091 (2007).

‘Heterochromatin-mediated control of virulence gene expression.’ (REVIEW)    
Merrick, C.J. and Duraisingh, M.T.  Mol Microbiol. 62(3), 612-20 (2006).

‘Functional Analysis of Avr9/Cf-9 Rapidly Elicited Genes Identifies a Protein Kinase, ACIK1, that is Essential for Full Cf-9-Dependent Disease Resistance in Tomato.’
Rowland, O., Ludwig, A.A., Merrick, C.J., Baillieul, F., Tracy, F., Durrant, W.E., Fitz-Laylin, L., Nekrasov, V., Yoshioka, H. and Jones, J.D.G.  Plant Cell 17(1), 295-310 (2005).

‘Visualisation of altered replication dynamics after DNA damage in human cells.’  
Merrick, C.J., Jackson, D. and Diffley, J.F.X.  J.Biol.Chem. 279, 20067-20075 (2004).

 

Online media _________________________________________________________________

'Rinse and repeat: can mosquito passage ‘reset’ malaria parasites?' Review of Spence et al. Plos Pathogens 2015.
Merrick, C.J. Bugbitten blog of Parasites & Vectors, Aug 2015

'Taking turns: how Plasmodium changes its spots.' Review of Zhang et al. Nature 2014.
Edwards-Smallbone, J. and Merrick, C.J. Bugbitten blog of Parasites & Vectors, Aug 2014.

'Throwing the switch: gametocytogenesis in malaria parasites.' Review of Kafsack et al. & Sinha at al. Nature 2014.
Horrocks, P. and Merrick, C.J. Bugbitten blog of Parasites & Vectors, Apr 2014.

'Malaria virulence genes: Complex control.’ Review of Volz et al. Cell Host & Microbe, 2012.
Merrick, C.J. British Society for Parasitology online journal club, Feb 2012.

 ‘Malaria: An old but pressing problem
Merrick, C.J.  SITN-Flash (Newsletter of the Harvard ‘Science In The News’ Network) World AIDS Day Special Issue on Infectious Diseases, Dec 1 2010.

 

Science Writing for the General Public ____________________________________________

‘A Scientist for all Seasons’ (A review of E.O Wilson’s ‘Biophilia’)
Merrick, C.J.   Slightly Foxed, Summer 2014 issue.

‘Adventures in achromatopsia’ (A review of Oliver Sacks’s ‘The Island of The Colourblind’)
Merrick, C.J.   Slightly Foxed, Spring 2013 issue.

‘Honest Jim and the double helix’ (A review of James Watson’s ‘The Double Helix’)
Merrick, C.J.   Slightly Foxed. Autumn 2011 issue.

‘Biophilia for beginners’ (A review of Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’)
Merrick, C.J.   Slightly Foxed. Spring 2011 issue.

‘Tuberculosis: Fighting the Great White Plague.’
Merrick, C.J.  Biological Sciences Review, 21(3), 2009.

Selected Publications

  • Harris LM and Merrick CJ. 2015. G-Quadruplexes in Pathogens: A Common Route to Virulence Control?. PLOS PATHOGENS, vol. 11(2), Article ARTN e1004562. link> doi>
  • Merrick CJ, Huttenhower C, Buckee C, Amambua-Ngwa A, Gomez-Escobar N, Walther M, Conway DJ, Duraisingh MT. 2012. Epigenetic dysregulation of virulence gene expression in severe Plasmodium falciparum malaria. J Infect Dis, vol. 205(10), 1593-1600. link> doi>
  • Merrick CJ and Duraisingh MT. 2010. Epigenetics in Plasmodium: what do we really know?. Eukaryot Cell, vol. 9(8), 1150-1158. link> doi>
  • Kwok CK and Merrick CJ. 2017. G-Quadruplexes: Prediction, Characterization, and Biological Application. Trends Biotechnol, vol. 35(10), 997-1013. link> doi>
  • Stanojcic S, Kuk N, Ullah I, Sterkers Y, Merrick CJ. 2017. Single-molecule analysis reveals that DNA replication dynamics vary across the course of schizogony in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Sci Rep, vol. 7(1), 4003. link> doi>

Full Publications List show

Journal Articles

  • Kwok CK and Merrick CJ. 2017. G-Quadruplexes: Prediction, Characterization, and Biological Application. Trends Biotechnol, vol. 35(10), 997-1013. link> doi>
  • Stanojcic S, Kuk N, Ullah I, Sterkers Y, Merrick CJ. 2017. Single-molecule analysis reveals that DNA replication dynamics vary across the course of schizogony in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Sci Rep, vol. 7(1), 4003. link> doi>
  • Stanton A, Harris LM, Graham G, Merrick CJ. Recombination events among virulence genes in malaria parasites are associated with G-quadruplex-forming DNA motifs. BMC Genomics, vol. 17(1), 859. link> doi>
  • Merrick C. SEC-SANS: size exclusion chromatography combined in situ with small-angle neutron scattering. Journal of Applied Crystallography, vol. 49(6). doi> link>
  • Merrick CJ. 2015. Transfection with thymidine kinase permits bromodeoxyuridine labelling of DNA replication in the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Malar J, vol. 14, 490. link> doi>
  • Harris LM and Merrick CJ. 2015. G-Quadruplexes in Pathogens: A Common Route to Virulence Control?. PLOS PATHOGENS, vol. 11(2), Article ARTN e1004562. link> doi>
  • Merrick CJ, Jiang RHY, Skillman KM, Samarakoon U, Moore RM, Dzikowski R, Ferdig MT, Duraisingh MT. 2015. Functional Analysis of Sirtuin Genes in Multiple Plasmodium falciparum Strains. PLOS ONE, vol. 10(3), Article ARTN e0118865. link> doi>
  • Hasenkamp S, Merrick CJ, Horrocks P. 2013. A quantitative analysis of Plasmodium falciparum transfection using DNA-loaded erythrocytes. Mol Biochem Parasitol, vol. 187(2), 117-120. link> doi>
  • Merrick CJ, Huttenhower C, Buckee C, Amambua-Ngwa A, Gomez-Escobar N, Walther M, Conway DJ, Duraisingh MT. 2012. Epigenetic dysregulation of virulence gene expression in severe Plasmodium falciparum malaria. J Infect Dis, vol. 205(10), 1593-1600. link> doi>
  • Merrick CJ and Duraisingh MT. 2010. Epigenetics in Plasmodium: what do we really know?. Eukaryot Cell, vol. 9(8), 1150-1158. link> doi>
  • Merrick CJ, Dzikowski R, Imamura H, Chuang J, Deitsch K, Duraisingh MT. 2010. The effect of Plasmodium falciparum Sir2a histone deacetylase on clonal and longitudinal variation in expression of the var family of virulence genes. Int J Parasitol, vol. 40(1), 35-43. link> doi>
  • Merrick CJ and Duraisingh MT. 2007. Plasmodium falciparum Sir2: an unusual sirtuin with dual histone deacetylase and ADP-ribosyltransferase activity. Eukaryot Cell, vol. 6(11), 2081-2091. link> doi>
  • Merrick CJ and Duraisingh MT. 2006. Heterochromatin-mediated control of virulence gene expression. Mol Microbiol, vol. 62(3), 612-620. link> doi>
  • Rowland O, Ludwig AA, Merrick C, Baillieul F, Tracy FE, Durrant WE, Fritz-Laylin L, Nekrasov V, Sjölander K, Yoshioka H, Jones JD. 2005. Functional analysis of Avr9/Cf-9 rapidly elicited genes identifies a protein kinase, ACIK1, that is essential for full Cf-9-dependent disease resistance in tomato. Plant Cell. doi>
  • Merrick CJ, Jackson D, Diffley JFX. 2004. Visualization of altered replication dynamics after DNA damage in human cells. J Biol Chem, vol. 279(19), 20067-20075. link> doi>

Lab News and Events:

- In Spring 2018, the Merrick lab will be moving to the Cambridge University Pathology Department. 

Dr Catherine Merrick awarded Kan Tong Po fellowship with her Hong-Kong-based collaborator Dr Chun Kit Kwok

- Dr Merrick's ERC Consolidator Grant was featured on June 1st 2017 in the Times Higher Education 'In detail' feature.  As shown in the Tweet below, she has also been talking about new work on the topic of this grant at the BioMalPar 2017 conference in Heidelberg.

 

Dr Merrick appears in a video promoting Keele University's £45million investment in STEM facilities

Keele SU Student-Led Teaching Award for 'Superb Supervisor' goes to Dr Catherine Merrick

Keele Represented by Dr Merrick at Thai Workshop on Infectious Diseases

Keele CAEP Represented at the 2017 BSP Spring Meeting in Dundee

ERC Consolidator Grant awarded to Dr Merrick

New MRC Grants awarded to Keele CAEP Researchers

Dr Merrick attends EBI workshop on 'Bioinformatics for PIs'

PhD student Linda Anagu to compete in 'I'm a Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here!'

Keele biologists at the 2016 British Society for Parasitology Annual Meeting

Promotions to Senior Lecturer in 2016

Keele's malaria research represented at MAM 2016 in Australia

CAEP scientists make collaborative visit to Brazil

Keele Biologists at the 2015 British Society for Parasitology Annual Meeting

Article by Dr Merrick featured by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation

Keele Biologists at the 2014 British Society for Parasitology Annual Meeting

MRC Grant for Malaria Research

Keele Biologist participates in Women-in-Science WikiProject at The Royal Society

Summer research experience for students

Keele Malaria Biologists at the 2013 British Society for Parasitology Annual Meeting

BBSRC grant for malaria research awarded to Dr Catherine Merrick

Stafford MP visits malaria research teams at Keele University

New Electrophoresis Equipment for Life Science Researchers

Medical Research Council grant for malaria research awarded to Dr Catherine Merrick

Members of Keele's Centre for Applied Entomology and Parasitology ('CAEP') quoted in The Sunday Times

Current lab members:

  • Dr Holly Matthews, Postdoc from June 2017
  • Dr Craig Duffy, Postdoc from June 2017
  • Dr Florian Noulin, Postdoc from May 2017
  • Dr Lisa Rump, Technician from Apr 2017
  • Linda Onyeka Anagu, PhD student, Oct 2015-2019
  • Dr Esther Ekechukwu, part-time volunteer

Previous lab members:

  • Postdocs
  • 2013-2016: Dr James Edwards-Smallbone (next destination: postdoc at Micropathology Ltd).
  • 2013-2016: Dr Lynne Harris.
  • PhD students
  • 2012-2016: Dr Ashley Jordan (next destination: postdoc at Institut Laue-Langevin Grenoble).
  • Masters students
  • 2015-16: Pamela Veneziano Broccia, MSc ERASMUS student from Siena University (next destination: PhD student in Trieste). 
  • 2015-16: Scott Judkins, MSc in Molecular Parasitology and Vector Biology.
  • 2014-15: Katelyn Monsell, intercalated MPhil in research (next destination: completing medical training at Keele Medical School).
  • 2013-14: Rinal Sahputra, MSc in Molecular Parasitology and Vector Biology with Merit (next destination: PhD student at Manchester). 
  • 2013-14: Ethan Beale, MSc in Scientific Research Training at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. 
  • 2012-13: Adriana Adolfi, MSc in Molecular Parasitology and Vector Biology with Distinction and Hugh Mulligan Prize (next destinations: PhD student at LSTM, postdoc at UC Irvine). 
  • 2012-13: Molly Gorman, MSc in Scientific Research Training with Distinction at the Pasteur Institute in Paris (next destination: completing medical training at Keele Medical School).
  • Undergraduates
  • 2016-17: Liam Cole, Maria Maroszek, Ubaidu Dikko
  • 2015-16: Charlie Hanmer-Lloyd (Applied Life Sciences placement at the Pasteur Institute in Paris).
  • 2014-15: Dan Harris (Applied Life Sciences placement at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, next destination: PhD student at Glasgow); Brynn Young (Wellcome Trust Vacation Scholarship, next destination: MSc at Keele); Gemma Graham (Keele Medical School SSC placement); Sonia Hussein.
  • 2013-14: Ben Hopkins (Applied Life Sciences placement at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, next destination: PhD student at Leeds); Peter Clegg (Keele Medical School SSC placement)
  • 2012-13: Gemma Williams (Wellcome Trust Vacation Scholarship, next destination: Medical Technical Officer at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital); Kiran Riasat (next destination: MSc at Keele); Claire Flavell, Rebecca Jarrom, Joshua Watkins, Mengwu Yu.
  • 2011-12: Samantha Holmes, Samantha Morrey, Victoria Allin, Emma Crisp.

 

Lab members in Keele Hall, 2013, and at summer students leaving picnic, 2014

Lab funding:

  • Royal Society Kan Tong Po fellowship for collaborative visit by Dr Chun Kit Kwok, Hong Kong City University (£3000).
  • MRC travel funding to attend UK-Thailand workshop on Infectious Diseases, May 2017.
  • ERC Consolidator grant: 60 months, 2017-2022, €1,998,696.
  • UK Medical Research Council (MRC) research grant: 36 months, 2017-2020, £481,203.
  • PhD studentship, Nigerian Tertiary Education Trust, supporting Mrs Linda Onyeka Anagu (2015-2019, £96,000).
  • Faculty Research Support Fund to establish collaborative work with Montpellier University (£890).
  • Jean Shanks Foundation grant supporting Miss Katelyn Monsell for intercalated MPhil degree (2014-2015, £6532).
  • Wellcome Trust Biomedical Vacation Scholarship supporting Brynn Young as undergraduate summer student 2014 (8 weeks, £2000).
  • UK Medical Research Council (MRC) research grant: 30 months, 2014-2016, £268,069.
  • Wellcome Trust Biomedical Vacation Scholarship supporting Gemma Williams as undergraduate summer student 2013 (8 weeks, £1440).
  • UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) research grant: 36 months, 2013-2016, £357,233.
  • UK Medical Research Council (MRC) New Investigator grant: 12 months, 2013-2014, £141,899.
  • Joint PhD studentship 2012-2015, funded by Keele Acorn (£19,106) and Institut Laue-Langevin, Grenoble (€57,600), supervised by Dr C.J. Merrick and Prof. V.T. Forsyth.  Supplementary funding awarded by Keele ‘Bridging The Gaps’ programme and ISTM new lecturers fund.
Please contact me to discuss sources of funding if you are interested in working in Plasmodium molecular genetics.  Prospective PhD students should also follow this link for general information on applying for PhD research at Keele.  Note that in Spring 2018, the lab will be moving to Cambridge University.