Researcher finds that important fungal "scaffolding" genes belong to one of four classes

ATHENS, Ga. A mycologist at the University of Georgia has shown for the first time that crucial cell scaffold proteins called septins belong to one of four classes. The discovery could help unlock more information about septins, which are found in most animals, including humans, but not in plants.

The new classifications may lead to improved ways to treat fungal diseases in humans and could later have widespread agricultural applications as well.

Theres increasing evidence that septins are involved with cell division, so their role is very important in many processes, said Dr. Michelle Momany. Even though researchers have found septins in many living things, including humans, fruit flies, mice, fungi, yeasts and even nematodes, this is the first finding of common classifications.

The research was just published in the journal Genetics and was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Working with the fungus Aspergillus nidulans, Momany found several years ago that septins are crucial to the survival of the organism. That discovery pointed toward methods of treating fungal diseases, which have dramatically increased in the past decade.

Septins are the scaffolds that other parts of the fungal cell wall are built around. While there are more than 1.5 million species of fungi, only about 400 have been proved to be agents of disease in humans and animals. All fungi come in one of two basic forms, molds or yeasts. Molds grow with long, threadlike filaments, while yeasts are characterized by solitary cells that reproduce by budding.

The genus Aspergillus consists of filamentous fungi that can cause disease depending on the condition of their host. People undergoing chemotherapy or those with diseases such as AIDS or tuberculosis are often susceptible to diseases caused by fungi. Worse, pathogenic fungi are becoming harder to kill, and the numbers of those with fungal disease in the U.S. have dramatically increased, according

Contact: Michelle Momany
University of Georgia

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