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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 30, 2003

Biologists Win National Distinction For Research Paper

Four researchers in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences department of biological sciences recently received "Exceptional Paper" recognition from the "Faculty of 1,000," an organization of over 1,000 leading scientists, for their paper, "Skin facilitates Candida albicans mating."

They are: David Soll, Carver/Emil Witschi Professor in the Biological Sciences, and assistant research scientists Shawn Lockhart, Karla Daniels and Deborah Wessels.

As a result of their discoveries, the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) has invited Soll to chair the plenary session and give the summation talk at the 7th ASM Conference on Candida and Candidiasis scheduled for March 18-22, 2004, in Washington, D.C.

The Faculty of 1,000, an online research service that highlights the most interesting papers in biology based on the recommendations of more than 1,000 selected leading scientists, cited the UI paper and research, in part, for reporting "the remarkable discovery that Candida albicans, the most ubiquitous human fungal pathogen, undergoes high efficiency mating on skin." By giving the paper an exceptional rating, the organization designated it as "a landmark paper representing the top one percent of publications." The organization also cited the preceding papers, all published in the past 12 months, leading to the discovery.

Soll says that the paper is his most recent investigation of Candida albicans, an infectious yeast responsible for a variety of human illnesses.

"In 1985, my colleagues and I discovered phase switching in Candida albicans, but nobody knew why Candida changed its appearance. Then last February, Alexander Johnson of the University of California, San Francisco announced he had found that switching from the white to opaque phase is essential for mating in Candida," Soll says. "I wanted to see whether I could observe Candida mating."

Earlier this year, Soll used the Keck Dynamic Image Analysis System, which he and his colleagues developed, to record the first pictures of Candida albicans engaged in sexual activity. "Because we had discovered years ago that Candida albicans cells in the opaque phase are sensitive to body temperature and highly efficient at colonizing skin, we tested whether skin -- which is several degrees cooler than body temperature -- is conducive to mating. We took scanning electromicrograph photographs, and saw in the pictures that over 50 percent of the Candida cells seeded on skin were mating," Soll says. He adds that these results will help scientists to understand how Candida, which is carried in a noninvasive form in healthy individuals, causes disease.

During the past five years, Soll and his colleagues have continued to investigate the molecular mechanisms regulating fungal infections, animal cell locomotion including white blood cell function, the effects of HIV on white blood cell behavior, the basis for Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome (a rare disease occurring mostly in children and affecting bone marrow, the pancreas and other organs), cancer cell metastasis and neural tissue development. Soll's laboratory is composed of 32 researchers who currently hold seven grants and contracts. Their research interests range from the effects of ultra sound on cancer cells, infectious organisms and agricultural pests to investigating Candida albicans. During nearly three decades at the University of Iowa, Soll's studies have attracted more than $30 million in research funding.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 301, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu