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
  • Kozubowski Lab (Clemson University) - Cell/developmental biology and microbial pathogenesis of Cryptococcus neoformans
  • 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


frogsBefore You Take A Bite Of That Mushroom, Consider This Mycologists with the Royal Botanic Gardens in Surrey, England were curious about what was in their marketplace 'shrooms. They bought a packet of dried Chinese porcini and took it to the lab. They picked out 15 pieces and compared sequences of the DNA to a database of known species, creating a phylogenetic tree of Chinese boletes. What they uncovered, described in PeerJ, were three new species, identified in previous fungi lineages but never before named or described. Read more at NPR's The Salt.


mooseUsing fungi on crops could be the secret to helping agriculture adapt to climate change Scientists are discovering that microscopic fungi can help make food crops more abundant, less thirsty and more tolerant of rising temperatures. Now, fungi-boosted seeds from a startup company are coming to market in Kansas and soon will be in Missouri and elsewhere. The technology could make a crucial difference, considering the United Nations forecasts a need to increase food production by at least 60 percent to feed a projected 9 billion people by 2050. Read more at The Kansas City Star.


mooseCalifornia Trees Harbor Fungus Deadly to People With HIV A potentially deadly fungus that has been sickening HIV/AIDS patients in Southern California for decades grows on trees, a new study finds. The team of scientists who published the research - read here in PlosPathogens - note that they were tipped off to the finding by a teen girl's science fair project. The student sent samples of Cryptococcus gatti to the researchers, who compared them with samples from HIV/AIDS patients with C. gattii infections. The samples from three of the tree species were nearly genetically identical to the samples from the patients. The C. gattii fungus triggers infections of the lungs and brains and is responsible for a full third of all AIDS-related deaths, the researchers noted. They found that three tree species -- Canary Island pine, Pohutukawa and American sweetgum -- harbor the fungus and are sources of human infection. Read more at U.S. News and World Report.



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