Jon P. Boyle, PhD

  • Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
  • Member, Graduate Program in Microbiology and Immunology (PMI)

Education & Training

  • PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2003
  • MS, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • BA, University of Montana

Research Interests

In my lab we study the human pathogen Toxoplasma gondii.  Toxoplasma is an obligate intracellular parasite in the same phylum as other human and animal pathogens, including the causative agents of malaria and cryptosporidiosis.  It is estimated that over a third of the world population has been infected with this parasite, and it can cause severe and lethal disease in the immunocompromised and in the developing fetus.  To date there is no cure for this parasite. 

We are primarily interested in identifying Toxoplasma virulence genes and characterizing their mechanism of action.  To do this we use molecular, genetic, and functional/comparative genomic approaches.  Specifically, we are currently using comparative genomics to identify genes that are unique to Toxoplasma compared to its avirulent relatives, and then testing them in both cell culture and in vivo models for their role in parasite growth and virulence.  This work is facilitated by the fact that Toxoplasma is very amenable to genetic manipulation and the genomes for multiple strains of the parasite have been fully sequenced.  We are also embarking on our own sequencing projects of novel Toxoplasma strains and closely-related species to facilitate these comparative analyses.  Students working in the lab are exposed to a wide variety of techniques, including cell culture, microarray and RNAseq analyses, next generation whole-genome sequencing, genetic manipulation of parasites and host cells, and in vivo bioluminescence imaging.