Horwitz Benjamin, Professor
Work in the lab focuses on the molecular genetics of signal transduction in filamentous fungi. Fungi respond to several stimuli from the environment, including the presence of a host in the case of pathogens, light, gravity, and the availability of carbon and nitrogen sources. In animal cells, many signaling components have been identified, including heterotrimeric and small GTP binding proteins, protein kinase cascades and the transcription factors that they lead to, ion channels, and so forth. Fungi use some of these same gene products to transduce signals that are very different from those seen by animal cells. Homologies of sequence and mechanism are being exploited to make rapid progress in understanding the fungal signaling pathways, yet we must keep in mind that fungi may use novel signaling pathways that cannot be inferred from what is known in other organisms. The genome sequences of the fungal species that we study are available and are currently in the stage of manual annotation. Our lab is participating in the annotation efforts. Understanding of fungal signaling pathways should find application in the control of fungal disease, biocontrol of pathogens in agriculture, and the understanding of fungi as genetic model systems for morphogenesis. A long-standing interest of the lab is in the reception and processing of light signals, which in fungi are primarily blue light signals.