Investigating the Mechanism of Action of the Histatin Peptides

Project Description : 

In the Franz lab, our research interests involve understanding the role and importance of metals in biology, particularly at the host-pathogen interphase. One of the projects focuses on trying to understand how the immune system exploits metals in response to intruding microorganism, especially on how metals modulate the antifungal activity of antimicrobial peptides innate to the human body. Major focus has been on the Histatin peptides.

The histidine-rich salivary peptides of the histatin family have been of interest due to their strong antifungal activity, particularly against the opportunistic pathogen Candida albicans. The histatins are known to bind copper (Cu) and other metal ions in vitro, but the details of these interactions are poorly understood and their implications on in vivo antifungal activity have not been established. Therefore, the goal of the project is to understand the interplay between metal-binding and antifungal activity of histatin peptides

Biological, synthetic and spectroscopic methods will be routinely used to dissect the mechanism of action of the histatin peptides, and to test how the presence of metals modulates the antifungal properties of histatin. Hence, the student involved in this project can expect to gain experience in synthesis, characterization and purification of peptides, while also getting familiarized with the use of analytical tools, which include UV-Vis, LCMS, and EPR. Furthermore, the student would have the opportunity to perform antifungal susceptibility assays against Candida albicans. The project relies heavily on spectroscopy, therefore most of the time will be spent working on this area.

If interested in working during the Summer please email me directly to

Name of Lab: 

The Franz Lab
Logistics Information

Expected number of students to be accepted to position: 


Student Ranks Applicable: 

Hours Per Week: 


Contact Information

PI Name: 

Katherine J. Franz

PI Email:

Contact Person: 

Steven Conklin

Contact Position: 

graduate student

Contact Email: