Each year, as many patients die of a fungal infection than of malaria or tuberculosis. While there were ~212 million malaria cases in 2015, less than half a million people died of malaria (WHO). Yet, fungal infections are associated with mortality rates of up to 90%. Together, the 10 most common fungal pathogens kill ~1.5 million patients each year around the world. The unacceptably high mortality rates associated with fungal infections are due to the lack of suitable antifungal drug targets (evolutionarily, fungi are the closest relatives of animals), emergence of antifungal drug resistance, and sophisticated fungal stress response pathways.
The Diezmann lab aims to identify and develop novel antifungal drug targets. To do so, we focus on understanding the role of the heat shock protein Hsp90 in fungal biology and disease. Hsp90 is so called because its levels rise during heat stress. Hsp90 is a molecular chaperone that aids in folding and maturation of other proteins and protects them during heat stress. It also plays an important role in unstressed cells where it interacts with many signaling molecules and acts as a gatekeeper of genetic information thereby shaping evolutionary trajectories. As a chaperone, Hsp90 interacts with up to 10% of the cell’s proteins. Given it’s highly interactive role, we focus on different levels of Hsp90 biology. We map Hsp90 interaction networks in different fungal species, study the kinases that regulate Hsp90 and are regulated by Hsp90 and investigate its role in genome diversification. For more information on our research program, see the Research tab.
As part of Bath Ignite Dr Diezmann explains fungi and her research in five minutes. This talk inspired animation artist Tamara Webster to make a video about a scientist’s quest for a cure for fungal disease.