The Wheeler Lab is primarily researching how the highly motile single cell eukaryotic parasites which cause leishmaniasis (Leishmania species) and sleeping sickness (African trypanosomes) control their swimming and how this contributes to progression through their life cycles.
Research in this group exploits high content automated analysis of large data sets from light and electron microscopy, supported by mathematical modelling, to analyse how flagellum structure and cell shape contribute to cell swimming behaviours, how the cell generates these precisely defined structures and why parasites adapt their swimming to the different host and vector environments they encounter through their life cycles.
Much of this work also speaks to general questions regarding cell motility and flagellum function, including how defects in flagella cause human genetic disease - ciliopathies.
Supporting this work, Richard Wheeler co-manages the TrypTag.org data set a project which has determined the sub-cellular localisation of every trypanosome protein. Protein localisation within the highly structured trypanosome cells is informative for function and is a major new cell biology and parasitology resource while also supporting research in his group.
The single flagellum of Leishmania has a fixed polarisation of its asymmetric beat.
Wang Z. et al, (2020), J Cell Sci, 133