James Andrew Alspaugh, MD

Professor of Medicine
Professor in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
Campus mail DUMC Box 102359, 303 Sands Building, Research Drive, Durham, NC 27710
Phone (919) 684-0045
Email address andrew.alspaugh@duke.edu

The focus of my research is to understand the ways in which microorganisms sense and respond to changes in their environment. As microbial pathogens enter the infected host, dramatic genetic and phenotypic events occur that allow these organisms to survive in this harsh environment. We study the model fungal organism Cryptococcus neoformans to define signal transduction pathways associated with systemic fungal diseases. This pathogenic fungus causes lethal infections of the central nervous system in patients with AIDS and other immunological disorders. In addition to being an important pathogen, C. neoformans displays well-characterized and inducible virulence determinants. It is an outstanding system for dissecting the signaling pathways associated with pathogenicity.

The main techniques used in the lab are those of molecular genetics. We are able to readily mutate C. neoformans genes by homologous recombination. Mutant strains with disruptions in targeted genes are then evaluated in vitro for various phenotypes including altered expression of polysaccharide capsule and melanin. The effects of gene disruption on pathogenicity are also evaluated in animal models of cryptococcal disease. Using these techniques, we have identified a novel G-alpha protein/cAMP-dependent signaling pathway associated with mating and pathogenicity.

This research is complemented by the other investigators in the Duke University Mycology Research Unit. The members of this research community are pursuing studies in fungal pathogenesis, identifying novel antifungal drug targets, and studying the ecology of several medically important fungi.

Keywords: Microbial Pathogenesis
Cryptococcus neoformans
Signal transduction
Fungal mating
G proteins

Education and Training

  • Fellow, Infectious Diseases, Duke University School of Medicine, 1995 - 1998
  • Resident, Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, 1992 - 1995
  • Intern, Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, 1991 - 1992
  • M.D., Duke University, 1991


Hast, Michael A., Connie B. Nichols, Stephanie M. Armstrong, Shannon M. Kelly, Homme W. Hellinga, J Andrew Alspaugh, and Lorena S. Beese. “Structures of Cryptococcus neoformans protein farnesyltransferase reveal strategies for developing inhibitors that target fungal pathogens..” J Biol Chem 286, no. 40 (October 7, 2011): 35149–62. https://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M111.250506.

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Schell, Wiley A., Kerry O’Donnell, and J Andrew Alspaugh. “Heterothallic mating in Mucor irregularis and first isolate of the species outside of Asia..” Med Mycol 49, no. 7 (October 2011): 714–23. https://doi.org/10.3109/13693786.2011.568975.

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Stout, Jason E., L Beth Gadkowski, Shadia Rath, James A. Alspaugh, Melissa B. Miller, and Gary M. Cox. “Pedicure-associated rapidly growing mycobacterial infection: an endemic disease..” Clin Infect Dis 53, no. 8 (October 2011): 787–92. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/cir539.

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Okagaki, Laura H., Yina Wang, Elizabeth R. Ballou, Teresa R. O’Meara, Yong-Sun Bahn, J Andrew Alspaugh, Chaoyang Xue, and Kirsten Nielsen. “Cryptococcal titan cell formation is regulated by G-protein signaling in response to multiple stimuli..” Eukaryot Cell 10, no. 10 (October 2011): 1306–16. https://doi.org/10.1128/EC.05179-11.

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O’Meara, Teresa R., Christie Hay, Michael S. Price, Steve Giles, and J Andrew Alspaugh. “Cryptococcus neoformans histone acetyltransferase Gcn5 regulates fungal adaptation to the host..” Eukaryot Cell 9, no. 8 (August 2010): 1193–1202. https://doi.org/10.1128/EC.00098-10.

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O’Meara, Teresa R., Diana Norton, Michael S. Price, Christie Hay, Meredith F. Clements, Connie B. Nichols, and J Andrew Alspaugh. “Interaction of Cryptococcus neoformans Rim101 and protein kinase A regulates capsule..” Plos Pathog 6, no. 2 (February 19, 2010). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1000776.

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Ballou, Elizabeth R., Connie B. Nichols, Kathleen J. Miglia, Lukasz Kozubowski, and J Andrew Alspaugh. “Two CDC42 paralogues modulate Cryptococcus neoformans thermotolerance and morphogenesis under host physiological conditions..” Mol Microbiol 75, no. 3 (February 2010): 763–80. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2958.2009.07019.x.

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