Our goals are to understand mechanisms by which fungi effect disease and how fungal reproductive strategies have evolved. We employ classical genetic, molecular genetic and genomic tools for this endeavor. The quest to discover what makes a pathogen a pathogen overlaps with the study of mechanisms and evolution of fungal reproductive strategies since both are fundamentally recognition issues. For pathogenicity, the issue is how cells of different organisms communicate with each other to cause or prevent disease; for reproductive strategy, the question is how cells of the same organism recognize self from non-self. Both forms of recognition involve signal transduction pathways, components of which often overlap and both involve sets of gene products which allow one cell to form an intimate association, or to fuse with, another. Of practical importance, is the fact that fungi travel in the field by spore dissemination therefore a complete understanding of the spore developmental pathway provides a means for disease control. In recent years our emphasis has been on genes encoding multifunctional enzymes for biosynthesis of natural product metabolites. We have discovered that these small molecule metabolites are important not only in niche-specific environments (e.g., on the plant host), when the fungus is stressed (low iron, high salt, oxidative, nitrosative etc) but also for basic fungal development (morphology, growth, asexual and sexual reproduction).
Awards and Honors
- Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology () American Academy of Microbiology