Cells, Organisms and Molecular Genetics

Our research team

The Cells, Organisms and Molecular Genetics team here at the University of Nottingham’s School of Life Sciences is a diverse, collaborative group of researchers. We’re academics, postdoctoral research fellows, research technicians and postgraduate students, all working together to break new ground and make a real impact on the world around us.

Image of Paul Dyer

Paul Dyer

Professor of Fungal Biology, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences


  • workRoom B49 Office or B85 Laboratory Life Science Building
    University Park
    NG7 2RD
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BA University of Cambridge 1987; PhD University of Cambridge 1991; Research Associate, University of Nottingham 1991-1996; BBSRC David Phillips Research Fellow 1996-2001; Australian Antarctic Division Expeditioner 1999-2000; Berkeley Award from British Mycological Society for outstanding contribution to mycology/pathology research 1999; Lecturer and Reader, University of Nottingham 2002-2015; Professor of Fungal Biology, University of Nottingham 2015-present; Elected Fellow of Royal Society of Biology 2017.

Expertise Summary

Fungal Biology and Genetics.

Teaching Summary

Contribute teaching to the following modules (courses):

Genes, Molecules and Cells (LIFE1029 UNUK)

Microbial Biotechnology (LIFE2020 UNUK)

Pathogens (LIFE3035 UNUK)

Molecular Plant Pathology (BIOS3002 UNUK)

Core Skills in Biology (LIFE1042 UNUK FYR)

Year 3 Research Project (LIFE3022 UNUK)

Research Summary

Sexual Reproduction in Fungi

Investigation of molecular and physiological processes controlling sexual reproduction in ascomycete fungi. The overall aim is to understand the evolution of sexuality and asexuality in fungi, both from a fundamental and a practical perspective such that the sexual cycle can be manipulated as a valuable tool for species of biotechnological and medical significance. A variety of experimental techniques are being used, including those of classical genetics, molecular biology and genomics. Particular aims are:

(a) To identify mating-type (MAT) genes determining sexual compatibility from plant and human pathogenic fungi and species used in biotechnology, results will be of use in studies of mating-type distribution, design of diagnostic kits, and understanding of the role of MAT genes in sexuality;

(b) To identify downstream genes involved with sexual reproduction such as pheromone and signaling pathway genes, and assess their role, together with MAT genes, in the evolution of asexuality in fungi;

(c) To induce sexual cycles in fungal species of medical and biotechnological importance to allow strain improvement via sexual breeding;

(d) To investigate hormonal factors triggering and co-ordinating the sexual cycle and determine whether they may be useful as fungal growth regulators.

Current studies are focused on species from the genus Aspergillus and Penicillium, with an especial interest in the role of the sexual cycle in the evolution of the opportunistic pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus. Also possible exploitation of the sexual cycle in ascomycete species used for food production including Fusarium venenatum for Quorn production.

Sexual reproductive apothecia of the cereal pathogen Tapesia

Sexual ascospores of Aspergillus nidulans

Population Biology of Fungi including Lichens

Molecular markers such as randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPDs), ribosomal DNA and specific gene sequences, and whole genome data are being used to examine breeding systems and the extent of population variation within species of pathogenic fungi and lichens. Studies are in progress with temperate plant pathogens, medical pathogens, species used in the biotechnology, and lichen-forming fungi from both temperate regions and the Antarctic (in collaboration with Professors Peter Crittenden and Matt Dickinson). Results are of significance in understanding biodiversity within fungal populations, with possible implications for the ability of species to withstand climate change. The importance of non-genotypic variation is being assessed for the survival of yeast populations subject to environmental stressors (in collaboration with Professor Simon Avery)

The lichens Buellia frigida and Caloplaca saxicola from the Antarctic

Example of DNA fingerprinting of lichens using RAPD PCR

Fungicide Resistance and Molecular Diagnostics in Fungal Pathogens

Studies are in progress to determine the molecular genetic basis of fungicide resistance in ascomycete fungi using classical genetics and genomics approaches. Study targets include the opportunistic pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus (as part of a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award) and Tapesia (Occulimacula) species responsible for causing eyespot disease of cereals.

Classic symptoms of eyespot disease on stem base of wheat plant

Phenotypic variation in sexual progeny of Tapesia species

Fungal Genomics

Newly available fungal genomic resources are being used for bioinformatic and post-genomic experimental work, in order to investigate the genetic basis of traits of interest such as genes controlling sexual developmental processes. In addition the USA Joint Genomes Institute has provide funding to allow the genome sequencing of the lichen-forming fungus Xanthoria parietina being co-ordinated from Nottingham (in collaboration with Professors David Archer and Peter Crittenden).

Thallus of the lichen Xanthoria parietina

Acknowledgements Work is supported by project grants from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (UK), the Natural Environment Research Council (UK), the Wellcome Trust, and the European Union.

Research Collaborators Prof. Peter Crittenden, Prof. David Archer, Prof. Simon Avery, Prof. Matt Dickinson.

Future Research

(1) Genomics of the lichen-forming fungus Xanthoria parietina. Assistance is welcomed in the annotation and exploitation of the genome sequence.

(2) Adaptation of Antarctic lichens. Collaboration over future work to understand genetic adaptions in polar lichens is welcomed.

(3) Genetic traits of medical importance in the opportunistic pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus. Collaborations involving the use of the sexual cycle to assess the nature of traits such as virulence and fungicide resistance are welcomed.

Cells, Organisms and Molecular Genetics

School of Life Sciences
University of Nottingham
Medical School
Queen's Medical Centre
Nottingham NG7 2UH