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Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

Dr Duncan Wilson

Dr Duncan Wilson

Senior Lecturer E&R (PI)

 Geoffrey Pope 316


Geoffrey Pope Building, University of Exeter , Stocker Road, Exeter, EX4 4QD, UK


Duncan Wilson is a Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow. He discovered and characterised the first zinc scavenging mechanism of Candida albicans - the secreted “zincophore” system – which is critical for pathogenicity. His current research focuses on understanding how pathogenic fungi manage homeostasis of the essential micronutrient zinc, during infection.


Doctor of Philosophy. University of Manchester (2003-2006). The role of phosphodiesterases in Candida albicans physiology

Bachelor of Science with Honours in Microbiology. University of Glasgow (1999-2003)


Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow. University of Exeter (2019-present)

Wellcome Sir Henry Dale Fellow. University of Aberdeen (2014-2019)

Postdoctoral researcher. Hans Knoell Institute, Jena, Germany (2007-2014)


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Research interests

Our immune systems effectively prevent the vast majority of microbes from causing disease. One of the fundamental mechanisms underpinning this defence is called "nutritional immunity".

This is a system in which the human body withholds access to certain essential trace minerals that microbes require for growth. Pathogenic microbes therefore must have evolved strategies to circumvent nutritional immunity in order to grow within their host and cause disease.

Zinc is absolutely essential for the growth of all microbes and my group is using molecular approaches in the model fungal pathogen Candida albicans to understand how fungi adapt to nutritional immunity during infections. We have shown that C. albicans destroys host cells via a novel toxin called candidalysin. The fungus scavenges zinc from its environment via two distinct mechanisms: a transporter and a secreted “zincophore”. It also changes its morphology in response to zinc restriction, forming enlarged “Goliath” cells.    

We are now focusing on three main areas: (i) How fungal signalling pathways orchestrate intracellular nutrient trafficking; (ii) the mechanistic basis of competition for zinc at the host-pathogen interface; (iii) how Candida albicans Goliath cells are involved in colonisation of mammalian mucosae.  

This is important because fungal pathogens are a huge threat to human health, responsible for more deaths per year than malaria, and understanding how pathogens feed during infection may pave the way to novel therapeutics.

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Journal articles

Canteri de Souza P, Custódio Caloni C, Wilson D, Sergio Almeida R (In Press). An Invertebrate Host to Study Fungal Infections, Mycotoxins and Antifungal Drugs: Tenebrio molitor. Journal of Fungi, 4 Abstract.
Wilson D (In Press). Candida albicans: Microbe of the month. Trends in Microbiology, 27, 188-189.
Wilson D (In Press). Cellular Microbiology Interview - Dr Duncan Wilson. Cellular Microbiology, 20
Sprague JL, Schille TB, Allert S, Trümper V, Lier A, Großmann P, Priest EL, Tsavou A, Panagiotou G, Naglik JR, et al (2024). Candida albicans translocation through the intestinal epithelial barrier is promoted by fungal zinc acquisition and limited by NFκB-mediated barrier protection. PLoS Pathog, 20(3). Abstract.  Author URL.
King WR, Singer J, Warman M, Wilson D, Hube B, Lager I, Patton-Vogt J (2024). The glycerophosphocholine acyltransferase Gpc1 contributes to phosphatidylcholine biosynthesis, long-term viability, and embedded hyphal growth in Candida albicans. J Biol Chem, 300(1). Abstract.  Author URL.
Wacker T, Helmstetter N, Wilson D, Fisher MC, Studholme DJ, Farrer RA (2023). Two-speed genome evolution drives pathogenicity in fungal pathogens of animals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 120(2). Abstract.
Roselletti E, Pericolini E, Nore A, Takacs P, Kozma B, Sala A, De Seta F, Comar M, Usher J, Brown GD, et al (2023). Zinc prevents vaginal candidiasis by inhibiting expression of an inflammatory fungal protein. Science Translational Medicine, 15(725). Abstract.
Mogavero S, Höfs S, Lauer AN, Müller R, Brunke S, Allert S, Gerwien F, Groth S, Dolk E, Wilson D, et al (2022). Candidalysin is the Hemolytic Factor of Candida albicans. Toxins (Basel), 14(12). Abstract.  Author URL.
Richardson JP, Brown R, Kichik N, Lee S, Priest E, Mogavero S, Maufrais C, Wickramasinghe DN, Tsavou A, Kotowicz NK, et al (2022). Candidalysins Are a New Family of Cytolytic Fungal Peptide Toxins. mBio, 13(1). Abstract.  Author URL.
Takacs T, Nemeth MT, Bohner F, Vagvolgyi C, Jankovics F, Wilson D, Gacser A (2022). Characterization and functional analysis of zinc trafficking in the human fungal pathogen <i>Candida parapsilosis</i>. OPEN BIOLOGY, 12(7).  Author URL.
Helmstetter N, Chybowska AD, Delaney C, Da Silva Dantas A, Gifford H, Wacker T, Munro C, Warris A, Jones B, Cuomo CA, et al (2022). Population genetics and microevolution of clinical Candida glabrata reveals recombinant sequence types and hyper-variation within mitochondrial genomes, virulence genes, and drug targets. Genetics, 221(1). Abstract.  Author URL.
Takács T, Mihály Németh T, Szilovics Z, Vágvölgyi C, Wilson D, Gácser A (2021). Investigation of the zinc uptake system of the human fungal pathogen Candida parapsilosis. Access Microbiology, 3(12).
Costa ACBP, Back-Brito GN, Mayer FL, Hube B, Wilson D (2020). Candida albicans Mrv8, is involved in epithelial damage and biofilm formation. FEMS Yeast Res, 20(5). Abstract.  Author URL.
Correia I, Wilson D, Hube B, Pla J (2020). Characterization of a candida albicans mutant defective in all mapks highlights the major role of hog1 in the mapk signaling network. Journal of Fungi, 6(4), 1-18. Abstract.
Correia I, Prieto D, Román E, Wilson D, Hube B, Alonso-Monge R, Pla J (2020). Cooperative role of MAPK pathways in the interaction of candida albicans with the host epithelium. Microorganisms, 8(1). Abstract.
Wehmeier S, Morrison E, Plato A, Raab A, Feldmann J, Bedekovic T, Wilson D, Brand AC (2020). Multi trace element profiling in pathogenic and non-pathogenic fungi. Fungal Biology, 124(5), 516-524.
Rappleye CA, Wilson D (2019). Editorial overview: Host-microbe interactions: fungi. Current Opinion in Microbiology, 52, iii-vi.
Brown GD, Wilson D (2019). Mammalian innate immunity to fungal infection. Semin Cell Dev Biol, 89, 1-2.  Author URL.
Wilson D, Deepe GS (2019). The intersection of host and fungus through the zinc lens. Current Opinion in Microbiology, 52, 35-40.
Crawford AC, Lehtovirta-Morley LE, Alamir O, Niemiec MJ, Alawfi B, Alsarraf M, Skrahina V, Costa ACBP, Anderson A, Yellagunda S, et al (2018). Biphasic zinc compartmentalisation in a human fungal pathogen. PLOS Pathogens, 14(5), e1007013-e1007013.
Kjellerup L, Winther A-ML, Wilson D, Fuglsang AT (2018). Cyclic AMP Pathway Activation and Extracellular Zinc Induce Rapid Intracellular Zinc Mobilization in Candida albicans. Frontiers in Microbiology, 9
Richardson JP, Mogavero S, Moyes DL, Blagojevic M, Krüger T, Verma AH, Coleman BM, De La Cruz Diaz J, Schulz D, Ponde NO, et al (2018). Processing of. <i>Candida albicans</i>. Ece1p is Critical for Candidalysin Maturation and Fungal Virulence. mBio, 9(1). Abstract.
Wilson D (2017). A tale of two yeasts: <i>Saccharomyces cerevisiae</i> as a therapeutic against candidiasis. VIRULENCE, 8(1), 15-17.  Author URL.
Malavia D, Crawford A, Wilson D (2017). Nutritional Immunity and Fungal Pathogenesis: the Struggle for Micronutrients at the Host-Pathogen Interface. Adv Microb Physiol, 70, 85-103. Abstract.  Author URL.
Lehtovirta-Morley LE, Alsarraf M, Wilson D (2017). Pan-Domain Analysis of ZIP Zinc Transporters. Int J Mol Sci, 18(12). Abstract.  Author URL.
Malavia D, Lehtovirta-Morley LE, Alamir O, Weiß E, Gow NAR, Hube B, Wilson D (2017). Zinc Limitation Induces a Hyper-Adherent Goliath Phenotype in Candida albicans. Front Microbiol, 8 Abstract.  Author URL.
Moyes DL, Wilson D, Richardson JP, Mogavero S, Tang SX, Wernecke J, Höfs S, Gratacap RL, Robbins J, Runglall M, et al (2016). Candidalysin is a fungal peptide toxin critical for mucosal infection. Nature, 532(7597), 64-68.
Wilson D, Naglik JR, Hube B (2016). The Missing Link between <i>Candida albicans</i> Hyphal Morphogenesis and Host Cell Damage. PLOS PATHOGENS, 12(10).  Author URL.
Ballou ER, Wilson D (2016). The roles of zinc and copper sensing in fungal pathogenesis. Curr Opin Microbiol, 32, 128-134. Abstract.  Author URL.
Wilson D (2015). An evolutionary perspective on zinc uptake by human fungal pathogens. METALLOMICS, 7(6), 979-985.  Author URL.
Kasper L, Miramon P, Jablonowski N, Wisgott S, Wilson D, Brunke S, Hube B (2015). Antifungal activity of clotrimazole against <i>Candida albicans</i> depends on carbon sources, growth phase and morphology. JOURNAL OF MEDICAL MICROBIOLOGY, 64, 714-723.  Author URL.
Crawford A, Wilson D (2015). Essential metals at the host-pathogen interface: nutritional immunity and micronutrient assimilation by human fungal pathogens. FEMS YEAST RESEARCH, 15(7).  Author URL.
Tyc KM, Kühn C, Wilson D, Klipp E (2014). Assessing the advantage of morphological changes in Candida albicans: a game theoretical study. Front Microbiol, 5 Abstract.  Author URL.
Wilson D, Mayer FL, Miramón P, Citiulo F, Slesiona S, Jacobsen ID, Hube B (2014). Distinct roles of Candida albicans-specific genes in host-pathogen interactions. Eukaryot Cell, 13(8), 977-989. Abstract.  Author URL.
Mech F, Wilson D, Lehnert T, Hube B, Thilo Figge M (2014). Epithelial invasion outcompetes hypha development during Candida albicans infection as revealed by an image-based systems biology approach. Cytometry A, 85(2), 126-139. Abstract.  Author URL.
Mayer FL, Wilson D, Hube B (2013). Candida albicans pathogenicity mechanisms. Virulence, 4(2), 119-128. Abstract.  Author URL.
Wilson D, Hebecker B, Moyes DL, Miramón P, Jablonowski N, Wisgott S, Allert S, Naglik JR, Hube B (2013). Clotrimazole dampens vaginal inflammation and neutrophil infiltration in response to Candida albicans infection. Antimicrob Agents Chemother, 57(10), 5178-5180. Abstract.  Author URL.
Mayer FL, Wilson D, Hube B (2013). Hsp21 potentiates antifungal drug tolerance in Candida albicans. PLoS One, 8(3). Abstract.  Author URL.
Jacobsen ID, Wilson D, Wächtler B, Brunke S, Naglik JR, Hube B (2012). Candida albicans dimorphism as a therapeutic target. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther, 10(1), 85-93. Abstract.  Author URL.
Citiulo F, Jacobsen ID, Miramón P, Schild L, Brunke S, Zipfel P, Brock M, Hube B, Wilson D (2012). Candida albicans scavenges host zinc via Pra1 during endothelial invasion. PLoS Pathog, 8(6). Abstract.  Author URL.
Wächtler B, Citiulo F, Jablonowski N, Förster S, Dalle F, Schaller M, Wilson D, Hube B (2012). Candida albicans-epithelial interactions: dissecting the roles of active penetration, induced endocytosis and host factors on the infection process. PLoS One, 7(5). Abstract.  Author URL.
Mayer FL, Wilson D, Jacobsen ID, Miramón P, Slesiona S, Bohovych IM, Brown AJP, Hube B (2012). Small but crucial: the novel small heat shock protein Hsp21 mediates stress adaptation and virulence in Candida albicans. PLoS One, 7(6). Abstract.  Author URL.
Mayer FL, Wilson D, Jacobsen ID, Miramón P, Große K, Hube B (2012). The novel Candida albicans transporter Dur31 is a multi-stage pathogenicity factor. PLoS Pathog, 8(3). Abstract.  Author URL.
Wilson D, Citiulo F, Hube B (2012). Zinc Exploitation by Pathogenic Fungi. PLoS Pathogens, 8(12).
Wächtler B, Wilson D, Hube B (2011). Candida albicans adhesion to and invasion and damage of vaginal epithelial cells: stage-specific inhibition by clotrimazole and bifonazole. Antimicrob Agents Chemother, 55(9), 4436-4439. Abstract.  Author URL.
Wächtler B, Wilson D, Haedicke K, Dalle F, Hube B (2011). From attachment to damage: defined genes of Candida albicans mediate adhesion, invasion and damage during interaction with oral epithelial cells. PLoS One, 6(2). Abstract.  Author URL.
Müller S, Fleck CB, Wilson D, Hummert C, Hube B, Brock M (2011). Gene acquisition, duplication and metabolic specification: the evolution of fungal methylisocitrate lyases. Environmental Microbiology, 13(6), 1534-1548. Abstract.
Kalkanci A, Kadioglu A, Wilson D, Jacobsen MD (2011). Gene expression in fungi. IMA Fungus, 2(1), 29-32. Abstract.
Martin R, Wächtler B, Schaller M, Wilson D, Hube B (2011). Host-pathogen interactions and virulence-associated genes during Candida albicans oral infections. Int J Med Microbiol, 301(5), 417-422. Abstract.  Author URL.
Seider K, Brunke S, Schild L, Jablonowski N, Wilson D, Majer O, Barz D, Haas A, Kuchler K, Schaller M, et al (2011). The facultative intracellular pathogen Candida glabrata subverts macrophage cytokine production and phagolysosome maturation. J Immunol, 187(6), 3072-3086. Abstract.  Author URL.
Wilson D, Fiori A, Brucker KD, Dijck PV, Stateva L (2010). Candida albicans Pde1p and Gpa2p comprise a regulatory module mediating agonist-induced cAMP signalling and environmental adaptation. Fungal Genet Biol, 47(9), 742-752. Abstract.  Author URL.
Dalle F, Wächtler B, L'Ollivier C, Holland G, Bannert N, Wilson D, Labruère C, Bonnin A, Hube B (2010). Cellular interactions of Candida albicans with human oral epithelial cells and enterocytes. Cell Microbiol, 12(2), 248-271. Abstract.  Author URL.
Wilson D, Hube B (2010). Hgc1 mediates dynamic Candida albicans-endothelium adhesion events during circulation. Eukaryot Cell, 9(2), 278-287. Abstract.  Author URL.
Linde J, Wilson D, Hube B, Guthke R (2010). Regulatory network modelling of iron acquisition by a fungal pathogen in contact with epithelial cells. BMC Syst Biol, 4 Abstract.  Author URL.
Almeida RS, Wilson D, Hube B (2009). Candida albicans iron acquisition within the host. FEMS Yeast Res, 9(7), 1000-1012. Abstract.  Author URL.
Wilson D, Thewes S, Zakikhany K, Fradin C, Albrecht A, Almeida R, Brunke S, Grosse K, Martin R, Mayer F, et al (2009). Identifying infection-associated genes of Candida albicans in the postgenomic era. FEMS Yeast Res, 9(5), 688-700. Abstract.  Author URL.
Domin N, Wilson D, Brock M (2009). Methylcitrate cycle activation during adaptation of Fusarium solani and Fusarium verticillioides to propionyl-CoA-generating carbon sources. Microbiology, 155(12), 3903-3912. Abstract.
Zakikhany K, Thewes S, Wilson D, Martin R, Albrecht A, Hube B (2008). From attachment to invasion: Infection associated genes of Candida albicans. Japanese Journal of Medical Mycology, 49(4), 245-251.
Wilson D, Tutulan-Cunita A, Jung W, Hauser NC, Hernandez R, Williamson T, Piekarska K, Rupp S, Young T, Stateva L, et al (2007). Deletion of the high-affinity cAMP phosphodiesterase encoded by PDE2 affects stress responses and virulence in Candida albicans. Mol Microbiol, 65(4), 841-856. Abstract.  Author URL.
Robinson LA, Wilson DM, Delaet NGJ, Bradley EK, Dankwardt SM, Campbell JA, Martin RL, Van Wart HE, Walker KAM, Sullivan RW, et al (2003). Novel inhibitors of procollagen C-proteinase. Part 2: Glutamic acid hydroxamates. Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters, 13(14), 2381-2384. Abstract.
Delaet NGJ, Robinson LA, Wilson DM, Sullivan RW, Bradley EK, Dankwardt SM, Martin RL, Van Wart HE, Walker KAM (2003). Novel inhibitors of procollagen C-terminal proteinase. Part 1: Diamino acid hydroxamates. Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters, 13(13), 2101-2104. Abstract.


Wilson D (2021). The role of zinc in the pathogenicity of human fungal pathogens. In  (Ed) Advances in Applied Microbiology, 35-61. Abstract.
Wilson D, Mayer F, Hube B (2014). Gene Expression during the Distinct Stages of Candidiasis. In  (Ed) Candida and Candidiasis, American Society for Microbiology, 283-298.


Wilson D (In Press). Intracellular Zinc Mobilisation Fuels Candida albicans Pathogenicity.

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