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Global Parasitology Seminars

Lillian Fritz-Laylin, PhD

Parasitology Seminar Series - Lillian Fritz-Laylin, PhD


Parasitology Seminar Series

Title: "Infectious chytrid fungi and our evolving view of cell motility"

Speaker: Lillian Fritz-Laylin, PhD
Assistant Professor of Biology
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Date: Monday, October 21, 2019

Time: 4-5 pm

132 Hill Pavilion
University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine
380 S University Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19104


Various cells scattered throughout the eukaryotic tree crawl across surfaces or through three-dimensional environments in order to hunt prey, evade predators and find mates. Evidence now indicates that cell crawling is not a single behavior, but rather a collection of processes, driven by different molecular mechanisms. We seek to understanding regulation and evolution of these mechanisms by first narrowly defining mechanical modes of locomotion, and then identifying phenotypic and molecular markers of each. The best studied mode of cell migration is the adhesion-based migration of highly adherent animal cells, including fibroblasts and epithelial cells, a mode limited to cells of the animal lineage. In contrast, a mode we refer to as “alpha-motility” is widely dispersed among eukaryotic phyla and is characterized by dynamic, actin-filled pseudopods and weak adhesion to external substrates. We are currently defining gene complements required for each mode, and using the resulting data to predict crawling motility in new species. We use this approach to predict alpha-motility in the amphibian-killing chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, a prediction we have verified using microscopy and small molecule inhibitors of actin cytoskeletal components. By developing mechanistic definition of distinct modes of crawling motility, and expanding our phylogenetic analysis to many eukaryotes, we are identifying genetic markers and regulatory mechanisms to understand basic principles of this key eukaryotic behavior.

Brief Biosketch

Dr. Fritz-Laylin is an evolutionary cell biologist who combines microscopy with comparative genomics and phylogenetics to understand the evolution and regulation of the eukaryotic cytoskeleton. Her lab studies two organisms with dynamic cytoskeletal properties and unique positions in the evolutionary tree: the amphibian-killing Bradiochytrium dendrobatidis, and Naegleria gruberi, which is a non-pathogenic cousin to the fatal “brain eating amoeba”. Studying these diverse organisms has revealed conserved features of the eukaryotic cytoskeleton, as well as uncovered new and unexpected behaviors of less-studied pathogens. Dr. Fritz-Laylin received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, where she combined classical cell biology with comparative genomics in the laboratory of Dr. W. Zac Cande. She was a Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Dyche Mullins at the University of California, San Francisco, and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Date and Time


Susan Waddington-Pilder