The emerging human pathogen Fusarium

Fungi of the genus Fusarium are among the most important trans-kingdom pathogens. They are responsible for dramatic yield losses as plant pathogens, but can also cause serious superficial and invasive infections in humans (fusariosis). These result in severe outcomes, especially in immunocompromised patients, while an infection of the cornea (keratitis) primarily affects otherwise healthy contact lens wearers. We elucidate virulence factors, their regulation and the diagnosis of Fusarium infections.

We are particularly interested in epigenetic regulation mechanisms (histone modifications) that influence gene expression without an underlying change in genetic information. Genes that code for fungal virulence factors – including natural products – are mostly located in heterochromatic regions. These are not expressed under standard laboratory conditions, but can be activated under certain (infection) conditions. We investigate relevant histone modifications (methylation and acetylation) and the involved enzymes that regulate these virulence genes, in order to develop new therapeutic approaches.

Our main research areas are

  • Fusarium virulence mechanisms and host-pathogen-interactions
  • Development of the diagnosis of Fusarium infections
  • Epigenetic regulation mechanisms
  • Gene silencing mediated by facultative heterochromatin
  • Biosynthesis and (epigenetic) regulation of natural products

The research group FusInfect (“Fusarium infections: molecular biology and diagnostics of an underestimated pathogen”) is integrated into the structural unit (Epi-)Genetic Regulation of Fungal Virulence. It studies virulence mechanisms and diagnostics of the opportunistic human pathogen Fusarium. It is financed by the Free State of Thuringia and the European Social Fund Plus (ESF).


Slavica Janevska