About Dr Julianne Djordjevic
Julianne (Julie) Djordjevic is head of the fungal pathogenesis group within the Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology (CIDM) at the Westmead Millennium Institute (WMI), a research centre affiliated with the University of Sydney. Her group’s research focuses on elucidating mechanisms used by fungi to cause systemic infection in humans using Cryptococcus neoformans as a model.
C. neoformans is a human fungal pathogen of global significance. It is a common cause of invasive fungal disease in immune-compromised individuals and is responsible for ~one million cases of meningo-encephalitis and ~600,000 deaths per year in HIV-infected patients alone. In light of the scarcity of antifungal drug classes, the emergence of resistant fungi, and unfavourable toxicity profiles of key marketed antifungals, the search for new drug targets is a major health priority. C. neoformans is also a well-accepted fungal model with a sequenced genome that is highly amenable to manipulation. A variety of robust animal models are also available (established “in-house”).
The laboratory is focused on unravelling the complexities of virulence-related signal transduction, secretion and nutrient acquisition, and the team is actively engaged in collaborative research within Australia and overseas. The laboratory has hosted several PhD and honours students and is keen to continue fostering research-lead postgraduate teaching.
Summary of the team's key research findings include identification of:
1. A role for fungal acid phosphatase (Aph1) in phosphate homeostasis
2. A kinase-dependent inositol polyphosphate conversion pathway involving phospholipase C, in fungal virulence
3. Identification of a calcineurin-responsive fungal transcription factor involved in regulating the integrity of the fungal cell wall and fungal growth at host temperature
4. A role for the PI-transfer protein, Sec14p, in fungal virulence and secretion of fungal virulence determinants (phosphospholiase B), and evidence for the existence of more than one secretion pathway in C. neoformans.
5. Specialized membrane subsets (rafts) and the cell wall as a reservoir for virulence factor sequestration
6. A role for N-linked glycosylation & lipid anchoring in secretion of the common fungal invasin (phospholipase B)
7. Fungal Cox9p as a molecular target of the anti-leishmanial drug, miltefosine (MI)
8. A role for fungal metacaspase, Mca1, in MI resistance.