Our lab is investigating the molecular mechanisms that regulate cell growth and development in yeast. In particular, we are studying the pathways that regulate the fungal pathogen Candida albicans during infection. We also carry out comparative studies on the regulation of mating of the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
The major goal of our studies is to define the molecular mechanisms that regulate morphogenesis and virulence factor production in the human pathogenic fungus Candida albicans. This opportunistic pathogen can cause severe infections in immunocompromised patients, and is therefore an increasing threat as modern medical procedures are improving the survival of immunocompromised patients. The focus of our studies is to define the pathways that regulate a morphological switch from growing as round budding cells to forming elongated hyphae that facilitate adhesion to the host cells and penetration into underlying tissues. The signals that stimulate hyphal morphogenesis are also important to identify because they induce the production of virulence factors that play important roles in pathogenesis. To help determine the molecular mechanisms underlying C. albicans pathogenesis, we also study similar pathways that stimulate morphological changes to promote mating in S. cerevisiae. These studies are expected to aid in development of novel therapeutic approaches by providing new insight into the mechanisms underlying C. albicans pathogenesis and also by providing a better understanding of the mechanisms of current antifungal drugs.