Anne M. Dranginis
In our laboratory we study gene regulation using the model eukaryote Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the bread yeast. Yeast are an excellent model system because of the extremely powerful genetic tools available for use with this organism. Precise mutations may be introduced anywhere in the yeast genome, for example, and genes can be removed or replaced easily. Over 40% of cloned human genes have proven to have homologs in yeast.
We discovered and characterized a gene that we named FLO11, which proved to encode an important cell wall protein in yeast. The protein product of FLO11 is a cell surface molecule that causes adhesion to substrates and to other cells. Flo11 is required for several types of development in yeast. The formation of pseudohyphae (long filamentous branched chains of cells) requires Flo11, as does invasive behavior of yeast cells.
Filament formation and invasion are important characteristics of pathogenic fungi. Although Saccharomyces cerevisiae is not a pathogenic fungus, it is a good model for the study of many disease-causing fungi, such as Candida albicans. There is a great need for safer, more effective anti-fungal therapies. Flo11 is a promising target for such therapies since it is extracellular, unique to fungi, and required for filament formation.
Currently we are investigating regulation of FLO11 gene expression as well as the function of the protein. We are also investigating FLO11 homologs in the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans.