Research Summary

Metabolic Regulation of Fungal Morphogenesis

Unicellular organisms including fungi have the ability to reversibly switch (Morphogenesis) to a community associated lifestyle under stressful conditions like nutrient limitation. This community lifestyle allows them to survive and persist under these unfavorable conditions. Interestingly, this reversible switching also allows some of the pathogenic fungi to invade and cause persistent infections in a host. Although it is well established that nutrient limitation is a key driver of community development (Biofilms) in fungi, little is known about the fundamental metabolic driving principles that control this behavior. My aim is to understand how these fungal communities develop from a metabolism perspective, in particular, understanding the molecules and metabolic processes that drive the development of these communities. I will be using a combination of genetics based techniques, microscopy and quantitative mass spectrometry to address this question. I will initially use Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Baker’s Yeast) as my model system to address some of these questions and subsequently transition to studying communities formed by pathogenic fungi including Candida albicans and Candida glabrata. This knowledge about the conserved metabolic pathways that drive the development of these biofilm communities could potentially aid us in the development of novel therapeutics that would target biofilm associated diseases caused by fungi.

Figure Legend: A) Response of Saccharomyces cerevisiae wild strains to different nutrient availability. Low glucose levels and presence of free amino acids is critical for the development of communities. B) Grid diagram showing different combinations of nutrient levels that triggers community behavior