Professor Marilyn A

Professor Marilyn A Anderson


Professor, Lab Leader

College of Science, Health and Engineering

School of Molecular Sciences

Department of Biochemistry and Genetics

Room 407, LIMS2, Melbourne (Bundoora)

Research centres

La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science


BSc Hons (University of Melbourne), PhD (La Trobe University)



Membership of professional associations

Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Australian Plant Biology Society; American Plant Biology Society; American Society for Microbiology

Area of study

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Brief profile

Professor Marilyn Anderson completed a BSc Honours at The University of Melbourne and a PhD in Biochemistry at La Trobe University. She spent seven years in the United States working on diabetes at the University of Miami and oncogenes at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. She returned to Australia in 1982 to establish a molecular biology group at the newly established Plant Cell Biology Research Centre at the University of Melbourne. In 1995, she moved to the Department of Biochemistry at La Trobe University.

Professor Anderson's current work is focussed on defence molecules produced by plants for protection against insect pests and pathogens. This interest was a spin off from work on genes that control pollination in flowering plants. She discovered that the female sexual tissues of plants produce high concentrations of molecules that protect reproductive capacity under adverse conditions in the field. Her current research spans from basic work on the structure and function of these molecules, to the practical application of creating crop plants which are protected from losses in the field due to predation and disease. This practical application is being developed within the company Hexima Limited of which Professor Anderson is a founding scientist and Chief Science Officer.


Officer of the Order of Australia (AO)

Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (FAA)

Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (FTSE)

Chief Science Officer of Hexima Ltd (since 2009)

Founder and Director on the Board of Hexima Ltd

Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (FAICD)

Director on the Board of City West Water Ltd (2008-2013)

Past Director on the Board of South East Water Ltd (1998-2008)

Served on the Biological Sciences Study Panel of the Australian Research Council (1999-2000)

Research interests

Plant innate immunity proteins

- Antifungal and insecticidal molecules, circular peptides, fungal cell walls, plant biotechnology

Recent publications


Poon S, Harris KS, Jackson MA, McCorkelle OC, Gilding EK, Durek T, van der Weerden NL, Craik DJ and Anderson MA (2017) Co-expression of a cyclizing asparaginyl endopeptidase enables efficient production of cyclic peptides in planta, Journal of Experimental Botany, erx422.

Bleackley MR, Dawson CS, McKenna JA, Quimbar P, Hayes BME, van der Weerden NL and Anderson MA (2017) Synergistic Activity between Two Antifungal Proteins, the Plant Defensin NaD1 and the Bovine Pancreatic Trypsin Inhibitor, mSphere, 2(5): e00390-17.

Shafee TM, Lay FT, Phan TK, Anderson MA and Hulett MD (2017) Convergent evolution of defensin sequence, structure and function, Cell Mol Life Sci., 74(4): 663-82.

Payne J, Lee TH, Anderson M and Aguilar MI (2017) Examination of the Interaction between a Membrane Active Peptide and Artificial Bilayers by Dual Polarisation Interferometry, Bio-protocol, 7(1): e2087.

Bleackley MR, Payne JA, Hayes BM, Durek T, Craik DJ, Shafee TM, Poon IK, Hulett MD, van der Weerden NL and Anderson MA (2016) Nicotiana alata defensin chimeras reveal differences in the mechanism of fungal and tumor cell killing and an enhanced antifungal variant, Antimicrob Agents Chemother., 60(10): 6302-12.

Daly NL, Gunasekera S, Clark RJ, Lin F, Wade JD, Anderson MA and Craik DJ (2106) The N‐terminal pro‐domain of the kalata B1 cyclotide precursor is intrinsically unstructured, Pep Sci., 106(6): 825-33.

Shafee TM, Lay FT, Hulett MD and Anderson MA (2016) The defensins consist of two independent, convergent protein superfamilies, Mol Biol Evol., 33(9): 2345-56.

Payne JA, Bleackley MR, Lee T-H, Shafee TM, Poon IKH, Hulett MD, Aguilar M-I, van der Weerden NL and Anderson MA (2016) The plant defensin NaD1 introduces membrane disorder through a specific interaction with the lipid, phosphatidylinositol 4,5 bisphosphate, Biochim Biophys Acta, 1858(6):1099-109.

Dracatos PM, Payne J, Di Pietro A, Anderson MA and Plummer KM (2016) Plant defensins NaD1 and NaD2 induce different stress response pathways in fungi, Int J Mol Sci., 17(9): 1473.

Shafee TM, Robinson AJ, van der Weerden N and Anderson MA (2016) Structural homology guided alignment of cysteine rich proteins, SpringerPlus, 5: 27.

Shafee T and Cooke I (2016) AlignStat: A web-tool and R package for statistical comparison of alternative multiple sequence alignments, BMC Bioinformatics, 17: 434. Masukume G, Kipersztok L, Das D, Shafee T, Laurent M and Heilman J (2016) Medical journals and Wikipedia: a global health matter, Lancet Glob Health, 4(11): e791. Strugnell J, Shafee T and Baeseman J (2016) Kudos for female Antarctic researchers, Nature, 148(536): doi:10.1038/536148b.

Shafee TMA, Robinson AJ, van der Weerden N and Anderson MA (2016) Structural homology guided alignment of cysteine rich proteins, Springerplus, 5 (27), doi: 10.1038/ncomms10199.

Lowe R, McCorkelle O, Bleackley M, Collins C, Faou P, Mathivanan S and Anderson MA (2015) Extracellular proteases of the cereal pathogen Fusarium graminearum, Front Plant Sci., 6: 962, doi: 10.3389/fpls.2015.00962.

Harris KS, Durek T, Kaas Q, Poth AG, Gilding EK, Conlan BF, Saska I, Daly NL, van der Weerden NL, Craik DJ and Anderson MA (2015) Efficient backbone cyclization of linear peptides by a recombinant asparaginyl endopeptidase, Nat Comm., doi: 10.1038/ncomms10199.

Shafee T, Harris K and Anderson M (2015) Biosynthesis of cyclotides, Adv Bot Res., 76: 227-69.

Baxter AA, Richter V, Lay FT, Poon IKH, Adda CG, Veneer PK, Phan TK, Bleackley MR, Anderson MA, Kvansakul M and Hulett MD (2015) The tomato defensin TPP3 binds phosphatidylinositol (4, 5)-bisphosphate via a conserved dimeric cationic grip conformation to mediate cell lysis, Mol Cell Biol., 35(11): 1964-78.

Samuel M, Bleackley M, Anderson M and Mathivanan S (2015) Extracellular vesicles including exosomes in cross kingdom regulation: a viewpoint from plant-fungal interactions, Front Plant Sci., 6: 766, doi: 10.3389/fpls.2015.00766.

Hayes BME, Anderson MA, Traven A, van der Weerden NL and Bleackley MR (2014) Activation of stress signalling pathways enhances tolerance of fungi to chemical fungicides and antifungal proteins, Cell Mol Life Sci., 71(14): 2651-66.

Bleackley MR, Hayes B, Parisi K, Saiyed T, Traven A, Potter ID, Weerden N and Anderson MA (2014) Bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor is a new antifungal peptide that inhibits cellular magnesium uptake, Mol Microbiol., 92(6): 1188-97.

Gaspar YM, McKenna JA, McGinness BS, Hinch J, Poon S, Connelly AA, Anderson MA and Heath RL (2014) Field resistance to Fusarium oxysporum and Verticillium dahliae in transgenic cotton expressing the plant defensin NaD1, J Exp Bot.,  65(6): 1541-50.

Lay FT, Poon S, McKenna JA, Connelly AA, Barbeta BL, McGinness BS, Fox JL, Daly NL, Craik DJ, Heath RL and Anderson MA (2014) The C-terminal propeptide of a plant defensin confers cytoprotective and subcellular targeting functions, BMC Plant Biol., doi: 10.1186/1471-2229-14-41.

Dracatos PM, van der Weerden NL, Carroll KT, Johnson ED, Plummer KM and Anderson MA (2013) Inhibition of cereal rust fungi by both class I and II defensins derived from the flowers of Nicotiana alata, Mol Plant Pathol., 15(1): 67-79.

Hayes BM, Bleackley MR, Wiltshire JL, Anderson MA, Traven A and van der Weerden NL (2013) Identification and mechanism of action of the plant defensin NaD1 as a new member of the antifungal drug arsenal against Candida albicans, Antimicrob Agents Chemother., 57(8): 3667-75.

Garvey M, Meehan S, Gras SL, Schirra HJ, Craik DJ, van der Weerden NL, Anderson MA, Gerrard JA and Carver JA (2013) A radish seed antifungal peptide with a high amyloid fibril-forming propensity, Biochim Biophys Acta., 1834(8): 1615-23.

Quimbar P, Malik U, Sommerhoff CP, Kaas Q, Chan LY, Huang YH, Grundhuber M, Dunse K, Craik DJ, Anderson MA and Daly NL (2013) High-affinity cyclic peptide matriptase inhibitors, J Biol Chem., 288(19): 13885-96.

van der Weerden NL, Bleackley MR and Anderson MA (2013) Properties and mechanisms of action of naturally occurring antifungal peptides, Cell Mol Life Sci., 70(19): 3545-70.

Stevens J, Dunse K, Fox J, Evans S and Anderson M (2012) Biotechnological approaches for the control of insect pests in crop plants, in Soundararajan RP, ed., Pesticides - Advances in Chemical and Botanical Pesticides (InTech), 269-308.

Conlan BF, Colgrave ML, Gillon AD, Guarino R, Craik DJ and Anderson MA (2012) Insights into processing and cyclization events associated with biosynthesis of the cyclic peptide kalata B1, J Biol Chem., 287(33): 28037-46.

Lay FT, Mills GD, Poon IK, Cowieson NP, Kirby N, Baxter AA, van der Weerden NL, Dogovski C, Perugini MA, Anderson MA, Kvansakul M and Hulett MD (2012) Dimerization of the plant defensin NaD1 enhances its antifungal activity, J Biol Chem., 287(24): 19961-72.

Conlan BF and Anderson MA (2011) Circular micro-proteins and mechanisms of cyclization, Curr Pharm Des., 17(38): 4318-28.

Conlan BF, Gillon AD, Barbeta BL and Anderson MA (2011) Subcellular targeting and biosynthesis of cyclotides in plant cells, Am J Bot., 98(12): 2018-26.

Poth AG, Colgrave ML, Philip R, Kerenga B, Daly NL, Anderson MA and Craik DJ (2011) Discovery of cyclotides in the fabaceae plant family provides new insights into the cyclization, evolution, and distribution of circular proteins, ACS Chem Biol., 6(4): 345-55.