Welcome to the Carbone lab

A major focus of our research is understanding the evolutionary and genetic mechanisms regulating aflatoxigenicity. Aflatoxin is one of the most carcinogenic compounds known and is responsible for major yield losses in oil seed crops worldwide. We examine the genetic and genomic mechanisms that generate aflatoxin diversity in populations of Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus obtained from experimental crosses in the laboratory and from population sampling on a global scale. We are interested in the genetic basis of fertility in these fungi, genotype-toxin associations and in characterizing the genetic and genomic plasticity observed in experimentally evolved populations and in natural populations. Our goal is to apply our knowledge of the evolutionary and genetic processes that influence aflatoxigenicity in these species to the development of novel biocontrol measures.

The evolutionary processes that modulate aflatoxin biosynthesis in nature are poorly understood. We are examining the evolution of fungal secondary metabolism focusing on the sterigmatocystin (ST), O-methylsterigmatocystin (OMST) and aflatoxin (AF) biosynthetic pathway in Aspergillus. The genes for ST, OMST, and AF are clustered and these compounds are synthesized as end products by numerous ascomycetes. Although all three metabolites (ST, OMST, and AF) are potent carcinogens in animals, the biological and evolutionary significance of these bioreactive compounds in fungi is unknown. We are combining inferences from macro- and micro-evolutionary analyses to understand the conservation of these metabolites among Aspergillus species and how diversity is generated and maintained within species over long periods of time and contemporary time scales.

A second component of our research is the development of software tools to facilitate and enhance our understanding of the underlying evolutionary processes shaping diversity in pathogen populations. We are actively developing the Mobyle SNAP Workbench web portal, which is a comprehensive package of population genetic, metagenomic and genome assembly tools that execute on a high-performance computing cluster.  The SNAP portal will be made available to the public as an online tool and as part of the open-source community.