Primary research interest

Redox biology and bacterial pathogenesis

Additional role

Investigator, Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre

Research focus and collaborations

My research interests are in the role of transition metal ions and redox processes in biology. The main focus of our research is bacterial pathogens, principally Streptococcus pneumoniaeNeisseria gonorrhoeaeHaemophilus influenzae and enteric bacteria. This research also involves investigation of the interaction between bacterial pathogens and the host innate immune system.

Current research projects include:

  • the biochemical mechanism of action of the novel thiol-based sensor NmlR and its role in the regulation of the response to nitrosative and carbonyl stress in bacterial pathogens
  • interplay between manganese, iron and zinc in the control of the virulence of pneumococcus
  • trafficking of copper and iron in macrophages in response to bacterial pathogens
  • adaptation of the respiratory chains of bacterial pathogens in response to metal ion and carbon source availability.
Copper-containing vesicles in murine macrphages infected with Salmonella Typhimurium Copper-containing vesicles in murine macrphages infected with SalmonellaTyphimurium. The image is a false colour overlay with copper pools in green and macrophage and Salmonella DNA (DAPI) in red.
Localisation of copper pools in murine macrophages infected with Salmonella Typhimurium. Left panel shows macrophage nucleus and Salmonella. Centre panel shows copper pools inside the infected macrophages. Right panel shows image analysis using InCell Developer (GE) - bacteria are circled in green, copper containing vesicles in purple and macrophage nucleus in red.

Funded projects

  • the biochemical mechanism of action of the novel thiol-based sensor NmlR and its role in the regulation of the response to nitrosative and carbonyl stress in bacterial pathogens
  • interplay between manganese, iron and zinc in the control of the virulence of pneumococcus
  • trafficking of copper and iron in macrophages in response to bacterial pathogens
  • adaptation of the respiratory chains of bacterial pathogens in response to metal ion and carbon source availability.
  • NHMRC Project Grant 2008-2010, Copper and its antibacterial action: an emerging aspect of host defence against bacterial pathogens, Total value of grant: $291,083
  • NHMRC Project Grant 2009-2011, The molecular physiology of Streptococcus pneumoniae during sepsis, Total value of grant: $1,097,500
  • ARC Discovery Project Grant 2010-2012, Disulfide Catalysis and Protein Folding in Bacterial Virulence, Total value of grant: $300,000 (2nd-named Chief Investigator)
  • ARC Discovery Project Grant 2009-2011, NmlR-dependent thiol-based redox systems and their role in global stress responses in bacteria, Total value of grant: $300,000
  • University of Adelaide 2010-2014, Pathogenesis, treatment and prevention of bacterial infectious diseases (Univ Adelaide lead institution), Total value of grant: $3,790,000 (2nd-named Chief Investigator)

Awards and achievements 

  • 1983 - University Research Fellowship
  • 1985 - NATO Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 1988 - Royal Society

Featured publications

Researcher biography

Alastair McEwan is Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Queensland. He holds a BSc(Hons) in Biochemistry from the University of Leeds and a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Birmingham. Following periods as a research fellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (SERC NATO Postdoctoral Fellowship) and the University of Oxford (Royal Society 1983 University Research Fellowship) he was appointed to a lectureship at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. He joined the University of Queensland in 1993 and was appoined Professor of Microbiology in 2003. Professor McEwan's research interests include bacterial physiology and bioenergetics, redox biology, biochemistry of metalloproteins, chemical biology of transition metals, bacterial pathogenesis and host-pathogen interactions.

For more information on specific research themes, see Research Interests.