Pirjo Apaja

Associate Professor, PhD

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A/Prof Pirjo Apaja is an EMBL Australia Group Leader. She has an international track record and a long-term interest in protein networks regulating proteostasis and membrane trafficking disorders.

Pirjo leads Organelle Biology and Disease Group, which central focus is in protein networks connecting proteostasis and stress reactivity responses in cancers, diseases of the nervous system such as Parkinson’s disease and Mendelian disorders. She did her postdoctoral research at the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute, Toronto, after which she received a position at McGill University to continue to run the program of Protein Trafficking and Proteostasis mechanisms with focus on the ubiquitin signalling and protein quality control at the endo-lysosomal pathway in human diseases such as cystic fibrosis and cancers. In 2016, she moved her laboratory to Adelaide. She has made seminal discoveries of mechanisms and therapeutic correction behind diseases such as cystic fibrosis, heart arrhythmias, neurological disorders and cancers.

Her laboratory uses an interdisciplinary combination of targeted proteomics and network analyses, advanced light microscopy and image analysis on single vesicle fluorescence-based subcellular trafficking and organelle pH regulation, biosensors and other biochemical and cell biological protein interaction assays in human disease model systems. Her laboratory has a specific interest in the ubiquitin signalling, deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs) and E3 ubiquitin ligases role in the proteotoxic stress. Her group's current focus is in connection of astrocyte stress reactivity, membrane organelle function to trafficking kinetics and signalling in cancers, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and neurodevelopmental diseases.


  • Parkinson's
  • Cancers
  • deubiquitinating enzymes
  • ubiquitin signalling
  • Protein Quality Control
  • membrane trafficking
  • proteotoxic induced stress
  • Neuronal disorders
  • astrocyte response
  • E3 ubiquitin ligases
  • adaptor proteins
  • autophagy-lysosomes


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