University of Dundee

Targeting the cell wall of human fungal pathogens

The cell wall of the opportunistic fungal pathogens Candida albicans and Aspergillus fumigatus is a dynamic and multi-layered structure consisting of the sugar polymers chitin, glucan and (galacto)mannan. Despite decades of work, there are huge gaps in our knowledge of the enzymes responsible for cell wall biogenesis. This is particularly pressing given the significant rise of fatal fungal infections in immunocompromised patients, and thus the need for novel, properly genetically and chemically validated, drug targets. In this project you will probe the “Achilles heel” of cell wall synthesis – the production of the sugar nucleotides UDP-Glc, UDP-GlcNAc and GDP-Man that will cut deep into the essential wall biosynthetic machinery. Using state-of-the-art techniques you will have to opportunity to (depending on your interests) genetically, structurally and chemically validate enzymes from these sugar nucleotide biosynthetic pathways as antifungal targets. Please contact Prof. Daan van Aalten (dmfvanaalten@dundee.ac.uk) to informally discuss this project.