What is Fungal Biology?

Fungi range from microscopic, single-celled yeasts to vast underground mycelial colonies covering hundreds of acres. They are heterotrophs that play major roles in recycling environmental carbon, cause diseases of plants and animals, and make many industrial products. Because they are more closely related to animals than to plants and because their biology and genetics are easily manipulated, fungi are great models organisms. With 17 labs dedicated to the study of yeasts and filamentous fungi, the University of Georgia is an international hot spot for fungal biology. Fungal researchers at UGA study ecologically diverse organisms to investigate topics ranging from plant pathology to population genetics to developmental biology. The combination of courses focused on fungi and related research methodologies provides a strong curriculum for graduate students and a productive training environment for postdocs interested in the fungi.

 

Who Researches Fungal Biology?

Fungal Biology Group Photo

  • Arnold Lab - Fungal Genomes, systems biology of clocks
  • Brewer Lab - Evolution and genetics of plant pathogenic fungi
  • Covert Lab - Molecular Genetics of plant-fungal interactions, Fusarium circinatum, Cronartium quercuum f.sp. fusiforme and Ustilago maydis
  • Garfinkel Lab - Retrotransposition in yeast
  • Glenn Lab - Endophytic Fungi and their interactions with hosts, Fusarium verticilliodes, Neotyphodium coenophialum
  • Glover Lab - Role and mechanism of Casein Kinase II, Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Gold Lab - Molecular biology of plant-fungal pathogen interactions, Ustilago maydis
  • Hall Lab - Mathematical Models of Evolution and Experimental Evolution in Yeast
  • Khang Lab - Cellular and molecular biology of plant-fungal interactions, fungal effectors and nutrient uptake, rice and Magnaporthe oryzae
  • Lankau Lab - Ecology and evolution of plant and fungal communities
  • Lewis Lab - Chromatin Structure and Function in Neurospora crassa
  • McEachern Lab - Telomeres in yeast
  • Momany Lab - Polarity, cell wall and cell cycle in Aspergillus nidulans and A. fumigatus
  • Scherm Lab - Diseases of fruit crops
  • Schmidt Lab - Biosynthesis of isoprenylated signaling molecules in S. cerevisiae
  • Shefferson Lab - Evolutionary history of mycorrhizae and other plant-microbe interactions
  • Starai Lab - Membrane fusion in yeast

 

Fungi in the News

 

frogsGenetics reveal effects of deadly frog fungus Researchers have discovered the mechanism that allows a fungus to infect and kill entire frog populations. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) has infected several species of frogs. However, some frogs seem to be unaffected by Bd. Researchers from Cornell University have found the mechanism behind the fungal infection in the highly susceptible Panamanian golden frog (Atelopus zeteki). The team found several changes in thousands of genes of frogs infected with the fungus. Scientists also found that the pathogen was suppressing genes linked to T-cells, which fight foreign bodies, in the spleen of infected frogs. Read the press release here.

 

 

mooseMoose Drool Undermines Toxic Fungus in Plants As moose feed, their slobber may weaken the toxic defenses of certain grasses, displaying the power of drool, according to a report in the journal Biology Letters. Some tasty grasses harbor fungi such as Epichloƫ festcuae, which can produce strong alkaloid toxins. These compounds can make large grazing animals sick and potentially cause loss of limb. Yet herbivores like moose and reindeer have developed an unconventional way of fighting back, according to ecologist and lead study author Andrew Tanentzap of the University of Cambridge: they drool. Read more here.

 

 

coffeeBreakfast of (fungal) champions Fungal infestations are seriously affecting production of staples of breakfast fare, resulting in higher prices and/or availability. Bananas around the world are suffering from Panama disease (or Fusarium wilt) which could very well wipe out the global supply of the Cavendish cultivar (easily the most common commercially-available banana). Coffee orchards in Central and South America are succumbing to Hemileia vastatrix called Roya, a rust. USAID, Texas A&M, and coffee providers such as Starbucks and Green Mountain have united to help producers combat the disease and maintain their farms. Lastly, a study by Duke University found the fungus detected in Chobani yoghurt, recalled in 2013, is more virulent than originally thought. Mucor circinelloides, originally considered an environmental contaminant, could be a serious pathogen for people with compromised immune systems. The authors stress that as food-borne pathogens, "it may be time to think about fungal pathogens and develop good regulations to test them in manufacturing facilities."

 

 

Recent Publications

ME An exotic invader drives the evolution of plant traits that determine mycorrhizal fungal diversity in a native competitor.
Molecular Ecology, November 2013
Lankau Lab
PP Temperature Regulates the Initiation of Chasmothecia in Powdery Mildew of Strawberry.
Phytopathology, July 2013
Brewer Lab