New funding from Department of Agriculture
Dr. John Mackrill was recently awarded funding of €195,086 from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, for a project entitled Small-molecule Modulators of Oomycete Calcium Channels (SMOCC).
Oomycetes, or water moulds, superficially resemble fungi and are commercially important pathogens of crops, fish and crustaceans. One example is Phytophthora infestans, or late blight of potatoes, that is estimated to cost Irish agriculture in the region of €10 million per annum. Such pathogens are becoming resistant to certain ‘fungicides’, whereas the use of other crop protective chemicals might be banned under upcoming EU legislation. Consequently, there is a need to develop new strategies to combat these commercially significant diseases.
Research in Dr. Mackrill’s laboratory has focussed on the ways in which cells use changes in the levels of calcium ions (Ca2+) to control their activities. Oomycetes can respond to stimuli from their environments with increases in Ca2+, which in turn regulates functions like growth, reproduction, movement and death. By analysing the evolution of ion channels that control Ca2+ signalling, Dr. Mackrill’s group has identified a new family of channels that is only present in oomycetes and not in other cellular organisms, such as animals and plants. These oomycete calcium channels represent an attractive target for the development of new classes of anti-oomycete ‘fungicides’: this is the major objective of the research project.
This work will involve extensive collaboration between the laboratories of Dr. Mackrill (pictured left), Dr. Barbara Doyle-Prestwich (centre), School of Biological Earth and Environmental Sciences and Dr. Florence McCarthy (right) of the Department of Chemistry and of the Analytical and Biological Chemistry Research Facility.