News & Events

Antonis Rokas, Ph.D.

Posted on February 26, 2016


Date - February 26, 2016
1:00 pm


Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair in Biological Sciences
Professor for The department of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University and the department of Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center

“The evolution of fungal chemodiversity”


Fungal species are typically saprobes, embedded in their food sources and required to digest their food externally in the presence of competitors. To survive in such a hostile environment, fungi have evolved a bewildering diversity of metabolic capabilities. Importantly, this phenotypic diversity is reflected in their genomes. Thus, by examining the fungal DNA record we can gain valuable insights into the evolution of their metabolic lifestyles. Research in my lab examines the evolution and function of metabolic genes in hundreds of fungal genomes that span the diversity of the fungal kingdom to address two key questions. The first aims to understand the evolutionary origins of the genes that give rise to fungal chemodiversity. The second is motivated by the unusual genomic structure of fungal metabolic pathways, whose genes are frequently found to reside in the same genomic region, forming what are known as metabolic gene clusters. Why the metabolic pathways that give rise to fungal chemodiversity are frequently clustered is the other major focus of our research in this area.