Project Title

The Impact of Fungal Melanin Production on the Susceptibility to Volatile Organic Compounds

Academic department under which the project should be listed

Molecular & Cellular Biology

Faculty Sponsor Name

Christopher Cornelison

Project Type

Event

Abstract (300 words maximum)

White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a disease caused by the pathogenic fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans. Since its emergence in North-Eastern America in 2006, WNS has been implicated in the death of millions of hibernating bats, leading to greater than 90% population declines of three formerly abundant species of bats. This massive decline in hibernating bat populations has vast ecological consequences. Researchers have estimated that if the hibernating bat population continues to decline at the current rate, the US agricultural industry will lose $3.7 billion/year due to the loss of pest control services that these insectivorous bats provide. To mitigate the impact of WNS on susceptible bat species, researchers continue to explore strategies to prevent the spread of WNS and alleviate WNS related bat mortality. One of the most promising control methods that have exhibited in vitro success is the use of volatile organic compounds to inhibit mycelial growth and conidia germination in a contact-independent manner. However, an understanding of what cellular processes impact the virulence of WNS is crucial to the implementation of effective control methods. This research aims to assess the role of melanin, an established virulence factor in pathogenic microbes and fungi, on the susceptibility of P. destructans to volatile organic compounds. Melanin is a high molecular weight pigment produced by many bacteria and fungi. In fungi, melanin functions to protect against environmental stressors such as heat, radiation, and oxidative stress, attributing to the virulence of many pathogenic fungi. The increased virulence displayed by melanized fungi is concerning for WNS treatment development as this could severely limit the antifungal activity of any proposed treatment strategies. Therefore, understanding the impact of melanin production on proposed control methods, such as the use of volatile organic compounds, is essential for successful implementation in naïve and WNS affected bat populations.

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The Impact of Fungal Melanin Production on the Susceptibility to Volatile Organic Compounds

White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a disease caused by the pathogenic fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans. Since its emergence in North-Eastern America in 2006, WNS has been implicated in the death of millions of hibernating bats, leading to greater than 90% population declines of three formerly abundant species of bats. This massive decline in hibernating bat populations has vast ecological consequences. Researchers have estimated that if the hibernating bat population continues to decline at the current rate, the US agricultural industry will lose $3.7 billion/year due to the loss of pest control services that these insectivorous bats provide. To mitigate the impact of WNS on susceptible bat species, researchers continue to explore strategies to prevent the spread of WNS and alleviate WNS related bat mortality. One of the most promising control methods that have exhibited in vitro success is the use of volatile organic compounds to inhibit mycelial growth and conidia germination in a contact-independent manner. However, an understanding of what cellular processes impact the virulence of WNS is crucial to the implementation of effective control methods. This research aims to assess the role of melanin, an established virulence factor in pathogenic microbes and fungi, on the susceptibility of P. destructans to volatile organic compounds. Melanin is a high molecular weight pigment produced by many bacteria and fungi. In fungi, melanin functions to protect against environmental stressors such as heat, radiation, and oxidative stress, attributing to the virulence of many pathogenic fungi. The increased virulence displayed by melanized fungi is concerning for WNS treatment development as this could severely limit the antifungal activity of any proposed treatment strategies. Therefore, understanding the impact of melanin production on proposed control methods, such as the use of volatile organic compounds, is essential for successful implementation in naïve and WNS affected bat populations.