Francois Mayer

Postdoctoral Fellow (DFG)IMG_0965
Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Michael Smith Laboratories
University of British Columbia

Diploma, Technical University Braunschweig, Germany (2007)
PhD, Leibniz-Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology – Hans-Knoell-Institute Jena, Germany (2012)
Postdoctoral Fellow, Leibniz-Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology – Hans-Knoell-Institute Jena, Germany (2013)

Research Interests
In immunocompromised persons such as HIV+/AIDS-patients, the pathogenic basidiomycetous fungus Cryptococcus neoformans frequently causes life-threatening meningoencephalitis. In addition, the related species C. gattii has recently manifested itself as a threat to immunocompetent individuals in British Columbia, Canada. The major C. neoformans virulence mechanisms are comprised of the biosynthesis of a polysaccharide capsule, the production of melanin, and the ability to grow at the physiological temperature of humans (37°C). The cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) signalling pathway mediates cellular responses including nutrient sensing, stress responses, melanin and capsule production, and hyphal growth. Compromising PKA activity in C. neoformans results in decreased capsule production and attenuated virulence. This phenotype is observed in a pka1 mutant which lacks the catalytic subunit of PKA. In contrast, a pkr1 mutant lacking the regulatory subunit of PKA produces an enlarges capsule and is hypervirulent. Strikingly, recent investigations have shown that the pka1 and pkr1 mutants have altered transcript levels for secretory pathway components. Based on this important discovery, the aim of this project is to investigate the influence of the cAMP/PKA pathway on the secretory machinery for capsule export in C. neoformans.

I am originally from Germany and I completed my studies in Biology at the Technical University Braunschweig. During my diploma thesis I investigated Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms under starvation conditions via proteome analysis in the department of Dr. Dieter Jahn at the Institute of Microbiology in Braunschweig. I then completed my PhD in Jena at the Leibniz-Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology – Hans-Knoell-Institute, where I focused on the identification and characterization of novel infection associated genes in the human pathogenic fungus Candida albicans under supervision of Dr. Bernhard Hube. Following a five-month postdoc in the lab of Dr. Hube, I moved to Vancouver to work on the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans at the Michael Smith Laboratories under supervision of Dr. James Kronstad. My postdoctoral research at the Michael Smith Laboratories is funded by a DFG research grant.