Professor István Pócsi delivered the so-called Pontecorvo Lecture in Innsbruck, which was the closing presentation of Asperfest19 (International Aspergillus Meeting). The lecture has been named after Guido Pontecorvo, a world-famous geneticist of Italian descent, who made a lasting contribution to describing the structure and organization of genes through his research and used the mold Aspergillus nidulans as a model organism for his studies. A Pontecorvo lecturer is traditionally chosen by prominent international representatives of the relevant field (Aspergillus Genomes Research Policy Committee). This occasion is also an acknowledgement of his or her life’s work and achievements.
“I was deeply honored to give this talk. This means a significant formal acknowledgment of my work so far, but it is also an inspiration: it prompts and encourages me to perform new tasks and set new goals. At the University of Debrecen, we have been committed to researching fungal stress biology and transcriptomics for more than two decades and we have managed to achieve significant results in this field. We have not only established a significant international network of relations but we also work in cooperation with a huge number of experts from abroad. In this process, collaboration, constant knowledge sharing and coordinated research are essential for successful work,” said István Pócsi, who is the Head of the Department of Molecular Biotechnology and Microbiology of the University of Debrecen, to hirek.unideb.hu.
The professor added that the primary focus of study in his research group was on stress adaptation and the stress response system in molds.
“For living creatures, stress is part and parcel of everyday life. This is not necessarily negative, since the reactions to stressful situations and the ways of successful adaptation to them lead to new developments. The environment is also changing very fast for microbes, to which they also need to adapt. What we are studying is how this happens for molds. The aim of our research is to understand and explore this process more profoundly in order to be able to influence it,” said István Pócsi.
These research projects can also be essential industrial perspectives from the aspect of the development of pharmaceuticals. While in the case of industrial organisms, the objective is to increase stress tolerance, in the case of drug development, the aim is to decrease stress tolerance, for example, in the case of molds that cause sickness in people.
“Research projects may take two separate directions, depending on whether we want to strengthen or weaken the stress response of fungi. During the course of our studies, we have found several genes that can indeed strengthen the stress tolerance of fungi, which may have industrial significance in the long run. As regards efforts to reduce stress tolerance, they may even lead to the discovery of new drug attack points,” said the professor of the University of Debrecen.
It was on the basis of the results achieved so far that the Mushroom Stress Biology Research Group of ELKH-DE was established with the support of Eötvös Loránd Research Network. The research group examines the elements of the stress response system from the aspect of what attack points would be possible in the future for the development of antifungal drugs. Among other things, the researchers of the University of Debrecen have come up with a range of significant results in the field of exploring transcription factors that coordinate the stress response system and in understanding the cell death processes of fungi. At the Innsbruck international conference, István Pócsi gave a presentation titled “Omics-Based Aspergillus Stress Biology” on the findings of the studies conducted in Debrecen for more than twenty years, in addition to summarizing the current and future fungal stress biology research projects.
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