Dr Evelyne Deplazes

Senior Lecturer - Biochemistry

School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences
Faculty of Science

Overview

I was awarded my PhD in Computational Biophysics from the University of Western Australia (2012) for my work on combining molecular modelling and simulation approaches with fluorescence spectroscopy experiments to study mechanosensitive ion channels.

Following this, I carried out Postdoctoral work at the University of Queensland and Curtin University, funded by Early Career Fellowships from the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Australian National Health and Research Council (NHMRC). In 2019, I joined UTS under a UTS Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellowship and started my own research group. In 2021, I returned to the University of Queensland as a Senior Lecturer.

Apart from my research I am passionate about supporting diversity and equity in STEM and teaching the next generation of scientists to be 'critical thinkers'. I practice mindful leadership and aim to integrate kindness and gratitude into how I lead my research team.

Research Interests

  • Antifungal peptides
    Invasive fungal infections are difficult to treat, and many current drugs are toxic to human cells, resulting in severe side effects including chronic kidney damage. There are various peptides isolated from natural sources that show potent antifungal activity and might be useful for developing less toxic antifungal treatments. In this project we combine computer simulations and various wet-lab experiments to study how these peptides interact with model and fungal membranes. The project is a collaboration with researchers from the University of Technology Sydney and the University of Sydney.
  • Pore forming peptide (viroporins and antimicrobial peptides)
    Peptides that self-assemble that induce pores in membranes are ubiquitous in biology. Examples include antimicrobial peptides found in our innate immune systems or viroporins used by viruses to facilitate the release of viral particles from infected cells. In this project we combine computer simulations and various wet-lab experiments to characterise the structure and ion selectivity of such pore forming peptides.
  • Steroid – membrane interactions
    Steroids are a class of chemical compounds that occur naturally in the body (e.g. progesterone or testosterone) and are also used to treat a range of conditions such asthma, eczema or arthritis. Steroids exert their biological or pharmacological activities via a range of different mechanism, including by altering the structure and fluidity of cell membranes. We combine computer simulations and various wet-lab experiments to understand how steroids interact with membranes and how this might be used to modulate the function of membrane proteins. This project is a collaboration with researchers from the University of Technology Sydney and the University of Sydney.
  • Metal-binding proteins and their role in bacterial infections
    Bacteria use a range of different proteins to scavenge nutrients including metals from their host. Characterising the structure and function of bacterial metal-binding proteins is important for understanding bacterial pathogenesis and to develop strategies to prevent or reduce the spread of infections. This project is a collaboration with researchers from the University of Melbourne.

Research Impacts

Our research combines computer simulations and biophysical chemistry experiments to study biomolecular systems with a particular focus on understanding how small molecules interact with biological membranes. We aim to use the knowledge and tools from our research to help develop new pharmaceuticals or understand fundamental processes such as membrane permeation. In addition, we are interested in studying the structure and function of proteins. Our group collaborates with scientists from different fields including structural biologists, molecular and cell biologists as well as peptide and physical chemists to address challnges in biomedical sciences.

https://www.scientia.global/dr-evelyne-deplazes-combining-simulations-experiments-to-explore-interactions-between-membranes-small-molecules/

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Western Australia
  • Bachelor of Science, Curtin University

Publications

  • Župan, Marina L., Luo, Zhenyao, Ganio, Katherine, Pederick, Victoria G., Neville, Stephanie L., Deplazes, Evelyne, Kobe, Boštjan and McDevitt, Christopher A. (2021). Conformation of the Solute-Binding Protein AdcAII Influences Zinc Uptake in Streptococcus pneumoniae. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, 11 729981. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2021.729981

  • Luo, Zhenyao, Morey, Jacqueline R., Deplazes, Evelyne, Motygullina, Alina, Tan, Aimee, Ganio, Katherine, Neville, Stephanie L., Eleftheriadis, Nikolaos, Isselstein, Michael, Pederick, Victoria G., Paton, James C., Cordes, Thorben, Harmer, Jeffrey R., Kobe, Bostjan and McDevitt, Christopher A. (2021). A trap-door mechanism for zinc acquisition by Streptococcus pneumoniae AdcA. mBio, 12 (1) e01958-20, 1-14. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01958-20

  • Tangella, Lokeswari P., Arooj, Mahreen, Deplazes, Evelyne, Gray, Elin S. and Mancera, Ricardo L. (2021). Identification and characterisation of putative drug binding sites in human ATP-binding cassette B5 (ABCB5) transporter. Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal, 19, 691-704. doi: 10.1016/j.csbj.2020.12.042

View all Publications

Available Projects

  • The projects we work on are at the interface of physical chemistry, structural biology, biophysics and biomedical/biomolecular sciences. These projects are suitable for students with a background in any of these disciplines.

    Our research combines computer simulations and biophysical chemistry experiments to study biomolecular systems with a particular focus on understanding how small molecules interact with biological membranes. We aim to use the knowledge and tools from our research to help develop new pharmaceuticals or understand fundamental processes such as membrane permeation. In addition, we are interested in studying the structure and function of proteins.

    The following are some of our current projects that are suitable for 3rd and 4th year undergraduate students, Honours or Masters students. Feel free to contact me for more information, and also with your own research ideas. We always aim to adapt the project to the student’s interest, background knowledge and skills.

    • Understanding the interaction of antifungal peptides with model and fungal membranes.
    • How do pore-forming peptides work? How to viruses or bacteria use such peptides to promote the spread of infection?
    • How do steroids alter the structure and fluidity of cell membranes?

View all Available Projects

Publications

Book Chapter

  • O'Mara, Megan and Deplazes, Evelyne (2014). Polypeptide and protein modeling for drug design. Encyclopedia of computational neuroscience. (pp. 2439-2447) edited by Dieter Jaeger and Ranu Jung. Berlin, Germany: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-6675-8_732

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • The projects we work on are at the interface of physical chemistry, structural biology, biophysics and biomedical/biomolecular sciences. These projects are suitable for students with a background in any of these disciplines.

    Our research combines computer simulations and biophysical chemistry experiments to study biomolecular systems with a particular focus on understanding how small molecules interact with biological membranes. We aim to use the knowledge and tools from our research to help develop new pharmaceuticals or understand fundamental processes such as membrane permeation. In addition, we are interested in studying the structure and function of proteins.

    The following are some of our current projects that are suitable for 3rd and 4th year undergraduate students, Honours or Masters students. Feel free to contact me for more information, and also with your own research ideas. We always aim to adapt the project to the student’s interest, background knowledge and skills.

    • Understanding the interaction of antifungal peptides with model and fungal membranes.
    • How do pore-forming peptides work? How to viruses or bacteria use such peptides to promote the spread of infection?
    • How do steroids alter the structure and fluidity of cell membranes?