Cameron Currie

Credentials: PhD

Position title: Professor


Phone: (608) 265-8034

6155 MSB
1550 Linden Drive
Madison, WI 53706

Currie Lab

Focus Groups



PhD, University of Toronto

Research Summary

Evolution of host-microbe interactions, including both pathogenic and beneficial microbes. We are particularly interested in: i) the evolution of virulence, ii) determining the factors that shape host-microbe specificity, iii) exploring factors limiting and/or facilitating broad host jumps, iv) and host-microbe coevolutionary dynamics. Our main model system is the fungus-growing ant–microbe symbiosis.

Research Detail

Symbiotic interactions range from pathogenic, where one organism exploits another, to mutualism, where both organisms benefit. On the antagonistic end, parasitic symbionts cause virulent diseases and are an important factor driving biological diversification. At the opposite end, mutualisms, once thought to be rare and of limited importance, are now recognized as having helped shape the evolution of life on Earth (e.g., the role of endosymbiotic bacteria in the origin of eukaryotic cells, the reliance of ~90% of land plants on mycorrhizal fungi, and the dependence of many animals on microbes to aid digestion). The importance of symbiosis is further exemplified by the increased interest in this area shown by the National Institute of Health over the last 3-5 years. For example, the sequencing of the human “microbiome” is now one of their major thrust areas. The basis for this is founded upon the increasing recognition that human health can be strongly influenced by non-pathogenic microbial symbionts. Despite the importance of symbiosis, including for human health, theory in this area is greatly lacking. Studies exploring model systems are greatly need to generate insights into critical factors shaping symbiotic associations. My work using the fungus-growing ant system is focused on helping generate theory in the field of symbiosis. In addition to work in this area, I am initiating a project to apply my evolutionary perspective, my knowledge in the field of symbiosis, and my experience studying host-microbe coevolution to the human microbiome.

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