Bioenergy: Plant Cell Wall Degradation
In order to significantly improve plant cell wall degradation and the processing of plant biomass by fungi, we must first understand the principles of these pathways. We use genetics, genomics and biochemical tools to address these questions, focusing on two related areas: the fungal enzyme secretion pathway and the fungal regulatory network associated with plant biomass degradation. We use the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa as a model lignocellulolytic fungus to address these experimental questions. These efforts have revealed mechanisms that can be utilized for optimization of plant biomass deconstruction for the production of biofuels and specialty chemicals.
Filamentous fungi communicate to coordinate cell fusion events to form the interconnected hyphal network that is the hallmark growth pattern of these organisms. Our current research objectives include determining the molecular mechanism of fungal communication, including the nature of fungal chemical languages, signal transduction processes and the adaptive value of fungal communication.
Programmed Cell Death
Self/nonself (allorecognition) discrimination is a ubiquitous and essential function in both multicellular and microbial species. In filamentous fungi, allorecognition triggers a programmed cell death (PCD) response. Allorecognition and PCD functions in fungal innate immunity to prevent transfer of mycoviruses and other infectious agents. Using N. crassa as a model system, our research objectives include elucidating the molecular mechanism of allorecognition, understanding how allorecognition triggers PCD and investigations into the evolution of self/nonself recognition systems.