Microbial Cell Biology
UPR signaling and pathogenic development
Research in our laboratory is focused on the Unfolded Protein Response (UPR) in development and disease signaling. Cells need to re-adjust and modify their cellular programs in response to a wide range of biotic and abiotic stimuli. The UPR is a highly conserved cellular response to maintain homeostasis of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). In situations of increased demands for protein production and secretion, potentially harmful un- or mis-folded proteins accumulate in the ER and activate the UPR pathway. Defects in UPR signaling are associated with a wide range of developmental, metabolic and neurodegenerative disorders. Besides the role as a cellular stress response, recent work demonstrated that the UPR pathway is also involved in control of developmental processes. We uncovered that UPR signaling in the phytopathogenic fungus Ustilago maydis is required for disease development and directly coupled to the pathways that control parasitic growth of the fungus. Our future studies will aim to characterize these connections on a molecular level and further explore the role of UPR signaling in controlling cellular behavior and responses to different environments.