Lab Overview

Research

  • Fungal host-pathogen interactions
  • G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs)  in infection and disease.
  • Industrial enzyme engineering

On the one hand our lab is currently investigating mechanistic aspects of fungal disease including existing and new potential sources of host-susceptibility and resistance as well as pathogen virulence factors.  Fungal pathogens continue to adapt and develop resistance to known sources of host-resistance and fungicides. However with a better understanding of the mechanisms mediating fungal infection we can develop new more innovative and durable sources of resistance and anti-fungal compounds.

In all instances target genes of interest are characterized biochemically  in vitro  by relevant assays relying on recombinantly produced and enriched  gene products. Targets range from cell surface receptors and ABC transporters  to related enzymes involved in allocrite/ligand biosynthesis, metabolism as well as signal transduction. Assays use a variety of different analytical methods such as liquid chromatography,  mass spectroscopy, photospectroscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance for metabolite analyses.  We also use protein crystallography and isothermal titration calorimetry to better understand protein-ligand interactions.

One target of particular interest to us are G-protein coupled receptors that mediate fungal infection. We use cell biology techniques including fungal growth or chemotactic plate assays, combined with mutagenesis, to asses the contributions of GPCR’s to fungal infection and to elucidate mechanisms associated with these roles, and the nature of stimulatory ligands and downstream signalling pathways.

On the other hand we have more recently also become engaged in industrial enzyme engineering toward the development of novel bioprocessing technologies to apply to industrial waste streams for the production of value added products in the natural health products, food colorings and nutrition fields.

Publications, Protein Structures and Patents

Our 3 latest publications include:

Demissie ZA, Huang F, Song H, Todd AT, Vrinten P, Loewen MC (2020) Barley “uzu” and Wheat “uzu-like” Brassinosteroid Receptor BRI1 Kinase Domain Variations Modify Phosphorylation Activity In Vitro Biochemistry. 59:2986-2997.[online]

Rajagopalan N, Lu Y, Burton IW, Monteil-Rivera F, Halasz A, Reimer E, Tweidt R, Brûlé-Babel A, Kutcher HR, You FM, Cloutier S, Cuperlovic-Culf M, Hiebert CW, McCallum BD, Loewen MC (2020) A phenylpropanoid diglyceride associates with the leaf rust resistance Lr34res gene in wheat Phytochemistry. 178:112456. [online]

Sridhar PS, Trofimova D, Subramaniam R, González-Peña Fundora D, Foroud NA, Allingham JS, Loewen MC (2020) Ste2 receptor-mediated chemotropism of Fusarium graminearum contributes to its pathogenicity against wheat Science Reports, 10:10770. [online]

Please see our full list of publications in PubMed
Please also enjoy our protein structures listed in the  RCSB database
Please also see our patent at USPTO 

Current Group Members

Michele C. Loewen
Senior Research Officer
Adjunct Professor – QueensU
Adjunct Professor – uOttawa

Zerihun Demissie (Research Associate; NRC)
Pooja Sridhar (Ph.D. Student; QueensU)
Kelly Robinson (Technical Officer; NRC)
Tanya Sharma (Ph.D. Student; uOttawa)
Fang Huang (Technical Officer; NRC)
Robert Jomphe (Coop Student; uOttawa)
Joshua Lister (Project Student; uOttawa)
Isabella Bakestani (Coop Student; uOttawa)
Peter Adewale (Research Associate; NRC)

Please see also our lab Alumni