Associate Professor Melanie Rug

CAM and Microscopy Australia Facility Director

Melanie is a parasitologist with a research focus on molecular, biochemical and cell biological investigation of host-parasite interactions of the malaria parasite. She completed her studies in Biology with a Masters degree (Dipl. Biol.) on parasitic diseases in European crayfish and a PhD investigating the toxic activities of Jatropha curcas against intermediate snail hosts and larvae of schistosomes, the causative agent of Bilharziosis, both at Ruprecht-Karls-University of Heidelberg, Germany.

Melanie's interest in parasitology brought her to La Trobe University, Melbourne on a Postdoctoral Research fellowship from the DAAD. She later moved to The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research as a Senior Research Fellow where she studied different aspects of malaria parasite-induced trafficking pathways in the human red blood cell gaining extensive experience in the application of a wide range of light, atomic force and electron microscopy techniques.

In February 2012, Melanie joined the Centre for Advanced Microscopy (CAM) at the ANU and has been appointed as Director of the facility and the Microscopy Australia (link) Node in 2014. Melanie shares her passion for the “Inner Space” with researchers from various science disciplines across the Life and Material Sciences.

Research interests

Melanie’s major research interest lies in understanding trafficking of exported proteins and (more recently) the lipid metabolism in Plasmodium sp.-infected erythrocytes, the causative agent of malaria. Her main research focus revolves around characterising functions of individual proteins by manipulating the parasite’s genome with molecular methods (reverse genetics). The generated mutants are then studied by biochemical analysis, immunofluorescence, Transmission and Scanning Electron microscopy (TEM and SEM) and often a combination of the beforementioned Microscopy techniques (CLEM), all of which can be performed on the high-end instrumentation at CAM

Selected publications:

1. YTV. Aw, Seidi, A., JA. Hayward, J. Lee, FV. Makota, M. Rug and G. van Dooren (2020) A key cytosolic iron-sulfur cluster synthesis protein localises to the mitochondrion of Toxoplasma gondii; Mol Microbiol. doi:10.1111/mmi.14651

2. Rottet S, Iqbal S, Beales PA, Lin A, Lee J, Rug M, Scott C, Callaghan R. (2020) Characterisation of hybrid polymersome vesicles containing the efflux pumps NaAtm1 or P-glycoprotein. Polymers 3;12(5):1049. doi: 10.3390/polym12051049

3. X. Xu, S. Akbar, P. Shrestha, L. Venugoban, R. Devilla, D. Hussain, J. Lee, M. Rug, T. Vanhercke, S. Singh, Z. Li, P. Sharp, Q. Liu (2020) A synergistic genetic engineering strategy induced triacylglycerol accumulation in potato (Solanum tuberosum) leaf. Frontiers in Plant Science 6;11:215. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2020.00215

4. Vanhercke T, Belide S, Taylor MC, El Tahchy A, Okada S, Rolland V, Liu Q, Mitchell M, Shrestha P, Venables I, Ma L, Blundell C, Mathew A, Ziolkowski L, Niesner N, Hussain D, Dong B, Liu G, Godwin ID, Lee J, Rug M, Zhou XR, Singh SP, Petrie JR. (2019) Up-regulation of lipid biosynthesis increases the oil content in leaves of Sorghum bicolor. Plant Biotechnol J. 17(1): 220-232.

5. AG. Maier, K. Matuschewski, M. Zhang, M. Rug (2019) Parasite of the month: Plasmodium falciparum. Trends Parasitol. 35(6):481-482. doi: 10.1016/

6. M. Zhang, P. Faou, AG. Maier, M. Rug. (2018) Plasmodium falciparum exported protein PFE60 influences Maurer's clefts architecture and virulence complex composition. Int J Parasitol. 48(1): 83-95.

7. Tran PN, Brown SH, M. Rug, Ridgway MC, Mitchell TW, Maier AG (2016) Changes in lipid composition during sexual development of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Malar J. 15: 73.

8. Rug M, Cyrklaff M, Mikkonen A, Lemgruber L, Kuelzer S, Sanchez C, Thompson J, Hanssen E, O’Neill M, Langer C, Lanzer M, Frischknecht F, Maier AG, Cowman AF (2014) Export of virulence proteins by malaria-infected erythrocytes involves remodelling of host actin cytoskeleton. Blood. 124: 3459-3468.

9. Regev-Rudzki N, Wilson DW, Carvalho TG, Sisquella X, Coleman BM, Rug M, Bursac D, Angrisano F, Gee M, Hill AF, Baum J, Cowman AF (2013) Cell-cell communication between malaria parasites promotes sexual differentiation via exosome-like vesicles. Cell 153: 1120-1133.

10. Hanssen E, Dekiwadia C, Riglar DT, Rug M, Lemgruber L, Cowman AF, Cyrklaff M, Kudryashev M, Frischknecht F, Baum J, Ralph SA. (2013) Electron tomography of Plasmodium falciparum merozoites reveals core cellular events that underpin erythrocyte invasion. Cell Microbiol. 15(9): 1457-72.

11. de Koning-Ward TF, Gilson PR, Boddey JA, Rug M, Smith BJ, Papenfuss AT, Sanders PR, Lundie RJ, Maier AG, Cowman AF, Crabb BS (2009) A newly discovered protein export machine in malaria parasites, Nature 459: 945-950,

12. Maier AG, Rug M, Brown M, O’Neill MT, Chakravorty S, Szestak T, Chesson J, Wu Y, Hughes K, Coppel R, Newbold C, Beeson J, Craig A, Crabb BS, Cowman: AF (2008) Exported proteins required for virulence and rigidity of Plasmodium falciparum-infected human erythrocytes. Cell 134: 48-61.

13. Maier AG*, Rug M*, O’Neill MT, Beeson J, Marti M, Reeder J, Cowman AF (2007) Skeleton Binding Protein 1 functions at the parasitophorous vacuolar membrane to traffic PfEMP1 to the Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocyte surface, Blood 109: 1289-1297. * equal contribution.

14. Rug M, Prescott S, Fernandez KM, Cooke BM, Cowman AF (2006) The role of KAHRP domains in knob formation and cytoadherence of P. falciparum-infected human erythrocytes. Blood 108: 370-378.

15. Marti M, Good RT, Rug M, Knuepfer E, Cowman AF (2004) Targeting malaria virulence and remodeling proteins to the host erythrocyte. Science 306:1930-1933.

Book chapters:

1. M. Rug and A.G. Maier (2013) Transfection of Plasmodium falciparum. (Book chapter, In: Ménard R. (eds) Malaria. Methods in Molecular Biology (Methods and Protocols), vol 923. Humana Press, Totowa, NJ.

2. A.G. Maier and M. Rug (2013) In vitro culturing Plasmodium falciparum erythrocytic stages. Methods Mol Biol. 923: 3-15. In: Ménard R. (eds) Malaria. Methods in Molecular Biology (Methods and Protocols), vol 923. Humana Press, Totowa, NJ.

3. B.S. Crabb, M. Rug, T.W. Gilberger, J.K. Thompson, T. Triglia, A.G. Maier, A.F. Cowman (2004) Transfection of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Methods Mol Biol. 270:263-276.

Teaching is one of the three pillars of the Centre for Advanced Microscopy together with research support and instrument and technique development. Imaging and analytical literacy are paramount for the next generation of researchers across the ANU and beyond.

CAM staff are involved in various teaching and outreach activities:

1) BIOL3203 Advanced Microscopy in Biosciences: convened and run by CAM staff together with faculty across various ANU schools and colleges (

2) 2-day module on ‘Correlative Light and Electron Microscopy in Parasitology’ in an international tertiary course “Concepts in Parasitology” run under the auspices of the Australian Society for Parasitology.

3) CAM Workshops

4) Outreach programs

Updated:  14 March 2024/Responsible Officer:  Science web/Page Contact:  Science web