Research Opportunity in Molecular Evolution
I am looking for a postdoctoral researcher to work on a novel biological
system with some interesting evolutionary ramifications. My laboratory
studies primarily the biochemical and molecular genetic aspects of plant
pathogenic fungi. We are studying genes that control biosynthesis of toxins
that are causally related to virulence and pathogenicity. The
natural history of these fungi and their toxins suggests that toxicogenesis
has evolved in the evolutionarily very recent past, and we are interested in
testing the possibility that the toxin genes have moved between fungal
species by horizontal gene transfer.
Ideally I would like to entice an evolutionary biologist who would be
competitive for one of the Sloan Fellowships in molecular evolution. The
person should be a recent Ph.D. and preferably changing fields. The
applications are due September 6.
The filamentous fungus Helminthosporium (aka Cochliobolus) has caused several
severe epidemics in the U.S., notably the Southern Corn Leaf blight epidemic
of 1970. The susceptible genotype of corn had only been grown for 10 years
before a new race of the fungus appeared making a toxin (a polyketide) that is
toxic only to that one kind of corn. Toxin production is controlled by a sing
le Mendelian gene. (The fungus has nice classical genetics and can be
transformed easily. Transformation is homologous so gene disruptions can be
done). We have cloned another "toxin" gene from a related fungus. This "gene"
is actually a 22 kb cluster and is completely lacking in all other races and
species of Helminthosporium. Another three unrelated fungi are known to make
closely related compounds (a cyclic tetrapeptide in this case). We would like
to test if the TOX DNA moved horizontally from one of these other fungi into
Helminthosporium, thereby enhancing its pathogenic fitness. For more details
on the system: Walton, JD (1991) In: SA Leong and RM Berka "Molecular
Industrial Mycology", M. Dekker, New York, p. 225.
Jonathan Walton (21337mgr at msu), (517)353-4885, DOE-Plant Research Laboratory,
Michigan State University, E. Lansing, MI 48824 USA.