Raymond St. Leger

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Raymond St. Leger
Born (1957-04-01) April 1, 1957 (age 60)
London, England
Residence United States
Nationality Flag of England.svg England
Fields Entomology and Mycology
Institutions Cornell
University of Maryland
Alma mater Exeter University
University of Bath
Doctoral advisor Professors Keith Charnley and Richard Cooper

Raymond J. St. Leger (born 1957, in London, England) is an American mycologist, entomologist and molecular biologist who currently holds the rank of Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Entomology at the University of Maryland, College Park. He was the recipient of the Universities 2009 Distinguished Scholar Teacher Award and in 2013 he joined Dr. Tammatha O’Brien in teaching a massive open online Coursera course called Genes and the Human Condition. St. Leger has published almost 150 scientific papers and book chapters on fungal pathogens of plants, animals and insects, and on the reactions of hosts to infection. St. Leger’s dominating research interest has been directed toward understanding entomopathogenic fungus (fungi that act as parasites of insects), and using them as models for understanding how pathogens in general respond to changing environments, initiate host invasion, colonize tissues, and counter host immune responses. These investigations have also addressed the mechanisms by which new pathogens emerge with different host ranges. St. Leger is leading a project to sequence multiple pathogens in collaboration with The Genome Institute (Washington University School of Medicine) and the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences. Their intent is to create highly accurate genome sequences in order to identify small genetic differences that can lead to the evolution of new pathogens. Other interests include fungal and insect behavior and evolution, molecular biology of fungi, pest control and mutualistic associations between microbes and plants that can be exploited to benefit agriculture.

St. Leger's most controversial work has involved altering insect pathogens so that they carry genes encoding spider and scorpion toxins. These engineered pathogens have the potential to control insect borne diseases such as malaria, and insect pests of agricultural importance. Although this avenue of work has been praised in many quarters, it was also suggested that it may be so emotive outside of science as to foster acute anxiety in the wider world (Bernard Dixon, Editorial comment in Microbe, Vol. 3 page 216, 2008). Another approach, which has been less controversial, is to engineer the fungus to carry a gene for a human anti-malarial antibody so that the fungus targets the malarial parasite in the mosquito. The fungus does not kill mosquitoes until they are old, so natural selection would not act against infected mosquitoes (http://insects.about.com/b/2011/02/28/could-genetically-engineered-fungus-mean-the-end-of-malaria.htm).

St. Leger received his Bachelor of Science in biology from Exeter University, in the United Kingdom in 1978, a Master of Science in entomology in 1980 from Birkbeck College London University, and a Doctor of Philosophy in 1985 in crop protection from the University of Bath, near Bath, England.

St. Leger has been a consultant on biotechnology to many private and public concerns, including the USDA, the NSF, the US State Department and the Organization of American States. St. Leger has also served on many national and international policy-making committees including the Bill Gates funded National Academies Committee to study technologies to benefit SubSaharan Africa and South Asia (2007). St. Leger gave the Founders lecture at the 2009 Society of Invertebrate Pathology Meeting.

Awards and honors[edit]

Recent Publications[edit]

Wang C. and St. Leger, R.J. 2006. A collagenous protective coat enables Metarhizium anisopliae to evade insect immune responses. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 103: 6647–6652

Wang, C. and St. Leger, R.J. 2007 Metarhizium anisopliae perilipin homolog MPL1 regulates lipid metabolism, appressorial turgor pressure and virulence. J. Biol. Chem. 282: 21110-21115

Wang, C. and St. Leger, R.J. 2007.The MAD1 adhesin of Metarhizium anisopliae links adhesion with blastospore production and virulence to insects: the MAD2 adhesin enables attachment to plants. Eukaryotic Cell 6: 808-816.

Wang, C. and St. Leger, R.J. 2007. A scorpion neurotoxin increases the potency of a fungal insecticide. Nature Biotech. 25: 1455–1456

Wang, C and St. Leger, R.J., 2008 MOS1 Osmosensor of Metarhizium anisopliae is required foradaptation to insect host hemolymph. Eukaryotic Cell 7: doi:10.1128/EC.00310-07

Fang, W and St. Leger, R.J. 2010. RNA binding proteins mediate the ability of a fungus to adapt to the cold. Environ. Microbiol. 12 810-820.

Fang, W and St. Leger, R.J., 2010 Mrt, a gene unique to fungi, encodes an oligosaccharide transporter and facilitates rhizosphere competency in Metarhizium robertsii Plant Physiol. 154: 1549–1557

Gao Q, Jin K, Ying S-H, Zhang Y, Xiao G, Shang Y, Duan Z, Hu X, Xue-Qin X, Zhou G, Peng G, Luo Z, Huang W, Wang B, Fang W, Wang S, Zhong Y, Ma L, St. Leger R.J. Zhao GP, Pei Y, Feng MG, Xia Y, Wang C (2011) Genome Sequencing and Comparative Transcriptomics of the Model Entomopathogenic Fungi Metarhizium anisopliae and M. acridum. PLoS Genet 7(1): e1001264. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1001264

Fang W, Vega-Rodriguez, J., Ghosh, A.K., Jacobs-Lorena, M., Khang, A and St. Leger, R.J., 2011. Development of transgenic fungi that kill human malaria parasites in mosquitoes. Science 331: 1074–1077.

Wang, S., Fang, W., Wang, C. and St. Leger, R.J. 2011. Insertion of an esterase gene into a specific locust pathogen (Metarhizium acridum) enables it to infect caterpillars. PLoS Pathog 7(6): e1002097. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002097

Wang, S. O’Brien, T., Pava-Ripoll, M and St. Leger, R.J. 2011 Local adaptation of an introduced transgenic insect fungal pathogen due to new beneficial mutations. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 108: 20449-20454.

Lin, L., Fang, W. Liao, X., Wang, F., and St. Leger RJ 2011 The MrCYP52 cytochrome P450 monoxygenase gene of Metarhizium robertsii is important for utilizing insect epicuticular hydrocarbons. PLoS ONE 6(12): e28984. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028984

Zheng P, Xia Y, Xiao G, Xiong C, Hu X, Zhang S, Zheng H, Huang Y, Zhou Y, Wang S, Zhao GP, Liu X, St Leger RJ, Wang C. 2011. Genome sequence of the insect pathogenic fungus Cordyceps militaris, a valued traditional Chinese medicine. Genome Biology 2011, 12:R116 doi:10.1186/gb-2011-12-11-r116

Xiao G, Ying SH, Zheng P, Wang ZL, Zhang S, Xie XQ, Shang Y, St Leger RJ, Zhao GP, Wang C, Feng MG. 2012. Genomic perspectives on the evolution of fungal entomopathogenicity in Beauveria bassiana. Sci. Rep. 2, 483; DOI:10.1038/srep00483

Fang W, St. Leger RJ (2012) Enhanced UV Resistance and Improved Killing of Malaria Mosquitoes by Photolyase Transgenic Entomopathogenic Fungi. PLoS ONE 7(8): e43069. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0043069

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