Fungi are an ever increasing threat to human health and agricultural crops. Combatting fungal infection is difficult because there are few exploitable differences between host and pathogen. Our antifungal research aims to identify novel antifungal molecules and targets.
Harnessing plant innate immunity peptides: Plants lack the adaptive immune system found in mammals and are fully dependent on innate immune systems composed of a variety of small molecules and proteins to protect against infection. Our main focus has been on a family of plant innate immunity peptides called defensins, a diverse family of small proteins which share a compact structure of 3 beta strands and an alpha helix stabilized by 4 disulphide bonds. Current research in the Anderson lab is centred on understanding the links between sequence diversity and mechanisms of action. These defensins are being developed for use in both disease-resistant transgenic crops and for the treatment of superficial fungal infections in humans.
Identifying new targets for antifungal molecules: Current antifungal target either the unique fungal cell wall or a fungi-specific cell membrane component (ergosterol). These drugs typically have problems with off-target toxicity and developing fungal resistance. We are investigating patterns of gene and protein expression in fungi under biotic and abiotic conditions to better understand the infection process and identify new targets for the development of antifungal molecules. We are also characterising the cell wall biosynthetic machinery using genomics, transcriptomics and proteomics to identify targets to inhibit.