Modern biology from the perspective of a simple fungus
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences is hosting a special fall Café Scientifique at the Opera House in Boothbay Harbor, 86 Townsend Avenue at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 8, in conjunction with an annual meeting of the international Research Coordination Network for microbial germplasm repositories taking place at the Laboratory.
The evening’s speaker is Dr. Kevin McCluskey, Research Professor and Curator of the Fungal Genetics Stock Center (FGSC) at the University of Missouri- Kansas City School of Biological Sciences.
McCluskey will lead a discussion titled Foundations of Modern Biology: Contributions from a Simple Fungus, focusing on a fungal species called Neurospora crassa, how it became a model organism for scientists studying genetics, and — more generally — what it means to be a “model organism” for research.
McCluskey’s talk will describe some of the keystone discoveries made by using Neurospora, including aspects of fungal genetics research that are having an impact on medical, agricultural, and industrial biotechnology.
“Fungi have been used by humans for thousands of years and medicinal fungi were found among the belongings of the Tyrolean ice man,” McCluskey said. “At the beginning of the molecular era, scientists were looking for organisms that could be used to probe the nature of the gene and Neurospora was selected because it was easy to manipulate. Work with Neurospora in the mid-20th century led to the one-gene, one-enzyme hypothesis, for which George Beadle and Ed Tatum shared the Nobel Prize in 1958.”
“In the ensuing decades, Neurospora has emerged as a model for gene structure and recombination, control of growth and cell shape, circadian rhythms, gene silencing, and biofuel development.”
McCluskey holds a doctorate in botany and plant pathology from Oregon State University. He was a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Arizona, before assuming the role of curator of the FGSC in 1995. He is a member of the Executive Board of the World Federation for Culture Collections, a member of the Public Policy Board of the American Phytopathological Society, and a leader of the U. S. Culture Collection Network.
The FGSC was established to preserve strains that were finding important use in genetics research, in response to concerns from the fungal genetics research community that strains used in the 1940s and 1950s were in danger of being lost as the researchers who had generated them retired or moved on to other areas of inquiry. The FGSC now is a resource available to the fungal genetics researchers, as well as educational and research organizations in general.
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay conducts research ranging from microbial oceanography to large-scale ocean processes that affect the global environment. Recognized as a leader in Maine’s emerging innovation economy, the Laboratory’s research, education, and technology transfer programs are spurring significant economic growth in the state. As part of Bigelow Laboratory’s Café Scientifique series, the October 8 talk is free and open to the public, with beer, wine and sodas available for purchase.