Michael E. Grigg

Adjunct Professor

B.Sc. (1989) University of British Columbia
Ph.D. (1994) In Biochemistry from the Imperial College of Science, Technology & Medicine in London, England.
From 1994 to 2002, Dr. Grigg held post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Washington in Seattle and at Stanford University.

Current Position: Michael Grigg is a Tenure-Track Investigator in the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases and an Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia.  He then took a position as Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia before moving to the NIH in 2006.

Biographical notes:

Among numerous awards and honours, Dr. Grigg has been selected as a Scholar of the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and has received CIHR’s New Investigator Award and the Canada Foundation for Innovation New Opportunities Award.  He was appointed as a Scholar in CIFAR’s Integrated Microbial Biodiversity Program in 2007.

Not only are parasitic protozoa serious pathogens of humans and animals throughout the world, their biology is quite remarkable.  Studies investigating their cell and molecular biology have identified unique paradigms of eukaryotic pathogenesis, including antigenic variation, RNA editing, and sexual hypervirulence, for instance.  Dr. Grigg’s research is focused on the food and water-borne parasite Toxoplasma gondii, a serious pathogen capable of causing lethal infections in the developing fetus and immunocompromised patients, as well as blinding chorioretinitis in both children and adults.  In all hosts, Toxoplasma establishes long-term chronic infections that persist for life despite the induction of strong immunity.  Eliminating the ability of the parasite to evade sterilizing immunity is central to controlling both its propagation and its pathogenesis since no vaccine or drug is currently capable of doing this.  Despite its prevalence and importance as a human pathogen, surprisingly little is known about how Toxoplasma causes disease

The goal of Dr. Grigg’s research is to understand the molecular basis of Toxoplasma gondii virulence and pathogenesis.  His approach is three-fold:  (1) investigate the molecular basis of sexual hypervirulence in parasitic protozoa using Toxoplasma as the genetic model; (2) determine the molecular interactions that control Toxoplasma pathogenesis in a naturally infectious, murine disease model; and (3), genomic and genetic identification of virulence factors essential to the ecological success of particular strains of this pathogen from both a population and evolutionary vantage.  To do this, his laboratory has developed a combination of new genetic, genomic, and molecular imaging techniques to identify parasite genes essential for entry into host cells, colonization, and subversion of host immunity in animal models of natural infection.

Current research projects:

  • Investigating Toxoplasma outbreaks associated with unusually severe clinical disease to assess the contribution of sexual meioses in the evolution of new strains that possess altered biological potential
  • Functional genomic, genetic, and bioinformatic approaches to identify and characterize discrete virulence factors that contribute to disease pathogenesis
  • Bioimaging the host-pathogen interaction in vivo using real-time molecular imaging and in situ within anatomically intact host tissues to visualize host immune cells responding to parasite infected targets
  • Gene expression, structural, and immunological analyses of parasite cell-surface antigens that regulate host immunity and contribute to parasite infectivity

Selected Recent Publications (View list in PubMed.)

Grigg ME. Population genetics, sex and the emergence of clonal lines of Toxoplasma gondii. In: “The Biology of Toxoplasma gondii” Ed. D. Soldati & J.W. Ajioka. 2007. Horizon Press

Conrad PA, Miller M, Kreuder C, James ER, Mazet J, Dabritz H, Jessup DA, Grigg ME. Sea otters as sentinels of Toxplasma gondiiflow into the marine environment. Intl. J. Parasitol. 2005. 35:1155-68.

Jung CG*, Lee CY-F*, Grigg ME. The SRS superfamily of Toxoplasma gondii surface proteins. Intl J Parasitol. 2004. 34:285-296. *joint first-authors.

Grigg ME*, Kong J-T*, Uyetake L, Parmley S, Boothroyd JC. Serotyping of Toxoplasma gondii infections in humans using synthetic peptides. J Infect Dis. 2003. 187:1484-1495.*joint first-authors

He X-L, Grigg ME, Boothroyd JC, Garcia KC. Structure of the immunodominant surface antigen from the Toxoplasma gondii SRS superfamily. Nature Struct Biol. 2002. 9:606-611.

Grigg ME, Bonnefoy S, Hehl AB, Suzuki Y, Boothroyd JC. Success and virulence in Toxoplasma as the result of sexual recombination between two distinct ancestries. Science. 2001. 294:161-165.