Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences (ICaMB) Medical School Newcastle University Catherine Cookson Building Framlington Place Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE2 4HH
Dr Julian Rutherford
After completing my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Masters in Industrial Biotechnology from India, I worked for nearly two years at the University of York and University of Bristol before starting my PhD at Newcastle University. My postgraduate dissertation on molecular characterisation of pathogenic fungi provoked interest and fascination in the field of molecular biology. The experience that I gained working as a research assistant with Dr Antony Dodd at York and Bristol investigating signalling pathways regulated by the circadian clock helped me to develop a specific interest in the regulation of signalling pathways and the desire to carry out independent research. My current research project investigates molecular mechanisms behind ammonium sensing during nutrient stress in S. cerevisiae.
Project title: The role of Mep2 in yeast pseudohyphal growth
Fungi undergo a range of developmental processes such as filamentous growth, the formation of fruiting bodies and the initiation of infection structures by pathogens. Often these developmental processes involve morphological change in response to nutrient limitation. I work with the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae that undergoes a switch from a yeast form to a filamentous pseudohyphal form under nutrient stress. During pseudohyphal growth the cells elongate whilst remaining attached to each other forming a chain allowing this fungus to scavenge for nutrients. I am interested in the molecular mechanisms behind this adaptive response. Critical to this process is the ammonium transporter Mep2, which has an essential role in pseudohyphal differentiation. It has the ability to sense low ammonium levels in the growth media, scavenge ammonium from surrounding sources and transport it into cell, thus acting as both transporter and sensor of ammonium levels. A present model is that Mep2 links ammonium transport to a signal transduction pathway that regulates pseudohyphal growth. We aim to explore this further by undertaking screens to identify potential interaction partners of Mep2 and performing phenotypic analysis of Mep2 mutants. Disease causing fungal pathogens can undergo structural changes in response to nutrient stress that are important for infection. Understanding these mechanisms may help us design strategies to manage the spread of diseases in both plants and animals.