Cynthia HE

Associate Professor and Assistant Head of Department

Contact Information:

Department of Biological Science
National University of Singapore
14 Science Drive 4
Singapore 117543

Lab: Molecular & Cellular Parasitology

6516 7377
6779 2486

Academic Qualifications

PhD University of Pennsylvania
MSc University of British Columbia
BSc Nankai University

Research Areas

Cell and molecular biology of parasitic

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Research Interests

Trypanosoma brucei (锥形虫) causes African sleeping sickness in humans and Nagano in cattle, bringing huge economic burdens to many developing countries that can least afford it . Though largely neglected in the past, the studies of T. brucei and related pathogens have attracted great attentions in global health research in the recent years, including major funding support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

As a model system, the single-celled T. brucei is one of the earliest divergent eukaryotic organisms studied in laboratories. Genomic databases of T. brucei and related species are complete. Development in advanced molecular genetics methods such as inducible expression and RNAi allows rapid characterization of protein functions. Furthermore, T. brucei has a simple cellular anatomy with a single copy of nucleus, mitochondrion, flagellum, and Golgi, suitable for fluorescence microscopic and electron microscopic studies. Duplication and segregation of these organelles take place in a strict temporal and spatial order, allowing rapid and reliable identification of cell cycle stages in an unsynchronized population. Using T. brucei as a model organism, we study the organization of cellular structures and the regulation of their co-ordinated duplication/segregation during cell cycle.

Selected Publications

  1. Zhang Y, Huang Y, Srivathsan A, Lim TK, Lin QS and He CY (2018). The unusual flagellar targeting mechanism and functions of the trypanosome orthologue of the ciliary GTPase Arl13b. J Cell Science http://jcs.biologists.org/content/early/2018/08/09/jcs.219071

  2. Sun SY, Kaelber JT, Chen M, Dong X, Nematbakhsh Y, Shi J, Dougherty M, Lim CT, Schmid MF, Chiu W, and He CY (2018). Flagellum couples cell shape to motility in Trypanosoma brucei. PNAS https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1722618115

  3. Xia J, Kong L, Zhou L-J, Wu S-Z, Yao L-J, He C, He CY and Peng H-J (2018). Genome-wide biomolecular fluorescence complementation-based proteomic analysis of Toxoplasma gondii ROP18's human interactome shows its key role in regulation of cell immunity and apoptosis. Frontiers in Immunology 9:61

  4. Lim LZEe SFu JTan YHe CY and Song J (2017). Kinetoplastid membrane protein-11 adopts a four-helix bundle fold in DPC micelle. FEBS Lett. 591(22):3793-3804

  5. Chen M, Dai W, Sun SY, Jonasch D, He CY, Schmid MF, Chiu W and Ludtke SJ (2017). Convolutional neural networks for automated annotation of cellular cryo-electron tomograms. Nature Methods 14:983-985.

  6. Li FJXu ZSAye HMBrasseur ALun ZRTan KSW and He CY (2017). An efficient cumate-inducible system for procyclic and bloodstream form Trypanosoma brucei. Mol Biochem Parasitol. 214:101-104.

  7. Li FJ, Xu ZS, Soo AD, Lun ZR and He CY (2017). ATP-driven and AMPK-independent autophagy in an early-branching eukaryotic parasite. Autophagy 13(4):715-729

  8. Koh XH, Aye HM, Tan KSW and He CY (2015) The lysosomotropic drug LeuLeu-OMe induces lysosome disruption and autophagy-independent cell death in Trypanosoma brucei. Microbial Cell 2(8): 288-298.

  9. Li FJ and He CY (2014) The acidocalcisome is required for autophagy in Trypanosoma brucei.  Autophagy 10(11):1978-88.

  10. Brasseur A, Shima Bayat, Chua XL, Zhang Y, Zhou Q, Low BC, and He CY (2014) The bi-lobe-associated LRRP1 regulates Ran activity in Trypanosoma brucei. Journal of Cell Science 127(22):4846-56.

  11. Sun Y, Wang C, Yuan YA, He CY (2013). An intra-cellular membrane junction mediated flagellum adhesion glycoproteins links flagellum biogenesis to cell morphogenesis in Trypanosoma brucei. Journal of Cell Science. 126(Pt 2):520-31

  12. Gheiratmand L, Brasseur A, Zhou Q, He, CY (2013). Biochemical Characterization of the Bi-lobe Reveals a Continuous Structural Network Linking the Bi-lobe to Other Single-copied Organelles in Trypanosoma brucei. The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 288:3489-3499.  


 Post-doctorates and PhD students currently in the lab:




Source of funding

Li Fengjun


MOE AcRF Tier 1

Huang Yameng

PhD student

MBI seed fund

Vishal Bhagat

PhD student

NUS graduate fellowship

Zhang Yiliu

PhD student

NUS graduate fellowship

Dong Xiaoduo

PhD student

Singapore Mechanobiology Institute Graduate Fellowship

Maneesha Pandey

PhD student

NUS graduate fellowship