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Dennis M. Dwyer, Ph.D.

Photos of Dennis M. Dwyer, Ph.D

Chief, Cell Biology Section
Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases

Major Areas of Research

  • Cell biology: secretory and endocytic trafficking
  • Biochemistry and physiology of surface membrane and secreted enzymes
  • Molecular biology: gene structure/function and expression

Program Description

Molecular Microbiology Cover: Immunofluorescence of L. donovani promastigotes.
Immunofluorescence of L. donovani promastigotes. The microtubule cytoskeleton is visualized with anti-α-tubulin antibody (red), LdK39 kinesin is visualized with anti-rK39 antibody (green), and nuclease and kinetoplast DNA are visualized with DAPI (blue). LdK39 kinesin accumulates at anterior and posterior cell poles and follows a pattern consistent with cortical cytoskeleton. (Credit: NIAID/Noel Gerald, 2007)

The cell and molecular biology of the protozoan pathogen, Leishmania, is investigated as a model of human parasitism. The goals of this research are to identify and characterize the basic mechanisms that facilitate this parasite's survival in its insect vector and human hosts. To that end, the basic biochemical functions and the structure of the genes encoding surface membrane and secreted proteins (enzymes) are investigated to define their roles in parasite survival and development.

Several unique parasite enzymes are currently being studied: a family of constitutively expressed acid phosphatases, a surface membrane 3´-nucleotidase/nuclease, and a developmentally expressed chitinase. Homologous gene-deletion (knockout), over-expression, and anti-sense methods are being used to determine/verify whether these proteins are critical to the survival of these organisms. In addition, plasmid constructs containing epitope tags (e.g., HA, green fluorescent protein tags, etc.) are being used to study the cellular trafficking and targeting of these unique parasite proteins. Such essential proteins could provide new targets for diagnostics and innovative chemo- and immunotherapeutic intervention for this important group of human pathogens.


Dr. Dwyer received his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for studies concerning the biochemistry and cell biology of several pathogenic protozoa. Following two years of postdoctoral research at The Rockefeller University and four years as an assistant professor at that institution, he joined the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases in 1976 as a senior investigator. Concurrently, he has been an adjunct professor on the graduate faculties of The Rockefeller University, Cornell Medical College, and his alma mater. His research group focuses on the basic cell and molecular biology of Leishmania, an important protozoan pathogen of humans worldwide. He serves on several journal editorial boards and on various national and international grant-review panels.


  • Henry Baldwin Ward Medalist (American Society of Parasitologists)
  • Honorary Fellow of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool University, UK
  • Alumni Citation Award (Montclair State University)
  • NIH Director's Award
  • Phi Kappa Phi
  • Sigma Xi
  • Who's Who in Science and Engineering
  • Who's Who in Medicine and Health Care
  • NATO Collaborative Research Grants
  • U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation Research Grants


  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • American Society for Cell Biology
  • American Society for Microbiology
  • American Society of Parasitologists
  • American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
  • Society of Protozoologists

Editorial Boards

  • Experimental Parasitology
  • Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology
  • Tropical Medicine Abstracts
  • Ad hoc reviewer for several other parasitology journals and various biochemistry, cell biology, and infectious disease journals

Grant Review Boards

AIBS Parasitic Diseases Review Panel; Medical Review Panel (United States Agency for International Development); External Grant Reviewer for several tropical disease research committees (U.N.D.P./World Bank/WHO); Cell Biology Section (United States National Science Foundation); United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation; NATO Scientific Affairs Division; The Wellcome Trust; Medical Research Council of Canada; British Columbia Health Research Foundation, Canada; National Research Council (National Academy of Sciences, United States)

Research Group

Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases Research Group 

“The Cellmates” 2011, L to R: Yunuen Hernandez, Dennis M. Dwyer, Todd Lyda, Andrew Kelada, and Manju Joshi

Selected Publications

Shakarian AM, McGugan GC, Joshi MB, Stromberg M, Bowers L, Ganim C, Barowski J, Dwyer DM. Identification, characterization, and expression of a unique secretory lipase from the human pathogen Leishmania donovani. Mol Cell Biochem. 2010 Aug;34(1-2):17-31.

Joshi MB, Dwyer DM. Molecular and functional analyses of a novel class I secretory nuclease from the human pathogen Leishmania donovani. J Biol Chem. 2007 Mar 30;282(13):10079-95.

Gerald NJ, Coppens I, Dwyer DM. Molecular dissection and expression of the LdK39 kinesin in the human pathogen Leishmania donovani. Mol Microbiol. 2007 Feb;63(4):962-79.

Joshi MB, Rogers ME, Shakarian AM, Yamage M, Al-Harthi SA, Bates PA, Dwyer DM. Molecular characterization, expression, and in vivo analysis of LmexCht1: the chitinase of the human pathogen Leishmania mexicana. J Biol Chem. 2005 Feb 4;280(5):3847-61.

Porter-Kelley JM, Gerald NJ, Engel JC, Ghedin E, Dwyer DM. LdARF1 in trafficking and structural maintenance of the trans-Golgi cisternal network in the protozoan pathogen Leishmania donovani. Traffic. 2004 Nov;5(11):868-83.

Joshi MB, Mallinson DJ, Dwyer DM. The human pathogen Leishmania donovani secretes a histidine acid phosphatase activity that is resistant to proteolytic degradation. J Eukaryot Microbiol. 2004 Jan-Feb;51(1):108-12.

Visit PubMed for a complete publication list.

Last Updated December 01, 2011