Professor Alister Craig

Dean of Biological Sciences

Alister Craig graduated in Genetics from Edinburgh University in 1981 and obtained his PhD in Molecular Biology from Leicester University in 1984.  He spent the next two years as an EMBO Fellow at EMBL in Heidelberg followed by two years as an ICRF Fellow in London working on developing techniques for genome analysis.  He subsequently worked for ten years at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Oxford on malaria before joining the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in 1999.


One aspect of malaria biology that has been associated with severity of disease has been the ability of erythrocytes infected with Plasmodium falciparum to adhere to the endothelial cells lining the small blood vessels (and also within the placenta).  Several endothelial receptors are able to mediate this binding, but studies on patient isolates have identified a subset of these are being important in the field.  Our research has focussed on one of the major receptors, intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1) and uses live endothelium as a model of the interactions taking place in vivo, as recent studies have indicated that disease severity may be linked to the ability of parasites to adhere to multiple receptors.  The group's work has extended into an analysis of post-adhesive effects on both the parasite and the host endothelium.

As well as wishing to understand the molecular processes underpinning sequestration in malaria, we are also carrying out work on clinical correlation of specific types of adhesion with severe disease and the differential distribution of variant populations of parasites in the body due to receptor tropism.  Our main goal is an understanding of the pathology of adhesion-based pathology in malaria and, thereby, the development of novel anti-disease therapeutics.

Other relevant expertise

Former member of the Wellcome Trust Funding Panel/ Expert Review Group (Pathogen Biology and Disease Transmission) and Scientific Advisory Committee for the European Vaccine Initiative.

Selected publications

  • Christopher A Moxon, Yasir Alhamdi, Janet Storm, Julien Toh, Dagmara McGuinness, Joo Yeon Ko, George Murphy, Steven Lane, Terrie Taylor, Karl Seydel, Sam Kampondeni, Michael Pochen, James O’Donnell, Niamh O’Regan, Guozheng Wang, Guillermo Garcia-Cardena, Malcolm Molyneux, Alister Craig, Simon Abrams, Cheng-Hock Toh (2020) Parasite histones are toxic to brain endothelium and link blood barrier breakdown and thrombosis in cerebral malaria. Blood Advances, 4 (13), pp. 2851-2864.

    Gavin Robertson Meehan, Hannah Elizabeth Scales, Rowland Osii, Mariana De Niz, Jennifer C Lawton, Matthias Marti, Paul Garside, Alister Craig and James M Brewer (2020) Developing a xenograft model of human vasculature in the mouse ear pinna. Sci Rep. 10(1): 2058 Frank Lennartz, Cameron Smith, Alister G. Craig and Matthew K. Higgins (2019) Structural insights into diverse modes of ICAM-1 binding by Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (USA), 116(40), 20124-20134

    Janet Storm, Jakob S. Jespersen, Karl B. Seydel, Tadge Szestak, Maurice Mbewe, Ngawina V. Chisala, Patricia Phula, Christian W. Wang, Terrie E. Taylor, Christopher A. Moxon, Thomas Lavstsen and Alister G. Craig (2019) Cerebral malaria is associated with differential cytoadherence to brain endothelial cells. EMBO Mol. Med., 11(2): e9164

    Eilidh Carrington, Thomas D. Otto, Tadge Szestak, Frank Lennartz, Matthew K. Higgins, Chris I. Newbold, Alister G. Craig (2018) In silico guided reconstruction and analysis of ICAM-1-binding var genes from Plasmodium falciparum. Sci. Rep. 8(1):3282

    O'Regan N, Moxon C, Gegenbauer K, O'Sullivan JM, Chion A, Smith OP, Preston RJ, Brophy TM, Craig AG, O'Donnell JS. (2016) Marked elevation in plasma osteoprotegerin constitutes an early and consistent feature of cerebral malaria. Thromb Haemost. 115(4):773-780

    Dumizulu L. Tembo, Benjamin Nyoni, Rekah V. Murikoli , Mavuto Mukaka, Danny A. Milner, Matthew Berriman, Stephen J. Rogerson, Terrie E. Taylor, Malcolm E. Molyneux, Wilson L. Mandala, Alister G. Craig and Jacqui Montgomery (2014) Differential PfEMP1 Expression is Associated with Cerebral Malaria Pathology. Plos Pathog., 10(12): e1004537

    Christopher Alan Moxon, Samuel Crocodile Wassmer, Danny Arnold Milner, Ngawina V Chisala, Terrie Taylor, Karl B Seydel, Malcolm E Molyneux, Brian Faragher, Charles T. Esmon, Colin Downey, Cheng-Hock Toh, Alister G. Craig, and Robert Simon Heyderman (2013) Loss of endothelial protein C receptors links coagulation and inflammation to parasite sequestration in cerebral malaria in African children. Blood 122(5):842-851

    Lucy B. Ochola, Bethsheba R. Siddondo, Harold Ocholla, Siana Nyka, Eva N. Kimani, Thomas N. Williams, Johnstone O. Makale, Anne Liljander, Britta C. Urban, Pete C. Bull, Tadge Szestak, Kevin Marsh and Alister G. Craig (2011) Specific receptor usage in Plasmodium falciparum cytoadherence is associated with disease outcome. PLoS ONE 6(3): e14741