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Elucidating the molecular mechanism of fungal environmental adaptation

Principal Supervisor: Dr Rebecca A Hall, School of Biosciences

Co-supervisor: Professor Robin May, School of Biosciences; Dr Sara Jabbari, School of Mathematics

PhD project title: Elucidating the molecular mechanism of fungal environmental adaptation

University of Registration: University of Birmingham

Project outline

Fungi are ubiquitous within the environment and respond and adapt to many different environmental signals. Environmental adaptation is extremely important for pathogenic fungi where the ability to adapt to host derived environmental signals determines whether or not the fungus can colonise the host and cause infection. Candida albicans is an opportunistic fungal pathogen that forms part of the natural flora of the oral, genital and gastrointestinal tracts of healthy individuals. However, changes in the host’s environment, activate adaptation responses in the fungus that enable the fungus to switch from commensal growth to a more pathogenic state. One of these adaptation events is the structural remodelling of the fungal cell wall. As the cell wall is the first point of contact between the invading pathogen and innate immune system, modification of its structure affects the host-pathogen interaction, enabling the fungus to either evade the immune system, or to hyperactivate pro-inflammatory immune responses and induce host damage. However, the host environmental signals and fungal signalling cascades that control cell wall adaptation are largely unknown.

During your PhD you will determine which host environmental signals drive fungal pathogenicity through modulation of the fungal cell wall and you will elucidate the novel fungal signalling pathways that mediate this adaptation. To achieve these aims you will use a combination of global transcriptional analysis (i.e. RNA Seq), proteomics, fungal genetics, cell biology, biochemistry and immunological techniques. You will receive a combination of in house training as well as attending appropriate external training courses to equip you with the skills you require for a successful PhD and future scientific career.

Dr Hall’s group forms part of the Host and Pathogen Interaction (HAPI) group at the University of Birmingham, which is a highly productive, interdisciplinary, collaborative force investigating the molecular mechanisms of fungal pathogenicity.


  • Sherrington S. et al (2017) Adaptation of Candida albicans to environmental pH induces cell wall remodelling and enhances innate immune recognition. PLOS Path. 13(5): e1006403
  • Hall RA (2015) Dressed to impress: impact of environmental adaptation on the C. albicans cell wall. Mol. Micro 97, 7-17.
  • Hall RA, et al. (2013). The Mnn2 mannosyltransferase family modulates mannoprotein fibril length, immune recognition and virulence of Candida albicans. PLoS Pathog. 9 e1003276

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Molecules, Cells and Systems

Techniques that will be undertaken during the project:

  • RNA Seq
  • Fungal genetics
  • Molecular biology
  • Super resolution microscopy
  • Mammalian cell culture
  • Basic immunology assays
  • FACS
  • Biochemical assays
  • Bioinformatics
  • Mathematic modelling

Contact: Dr Rebecca A Hall, School of Biosciences