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Laboratory of Clinical Infectious Diseases

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Peter Williamson, M.D., Ph.D.

Photo of Peter Williamson

Chief, Translational Mycology Unit, LCID

Major Areas of Research

  • The role of specialized signal motifs in trafficking of virulence factors to the fungal cell wall
  • How copper is exploited by successful cryptococcal strains to facilitate its unique ability to produce meningitis and how the host attempts to counter pathogen acquisition in health and disease
  • Regulation of autophagy by Cryptococcus in latent and active infections
  • TOR-dependent regulation of autophagic-associated phagocytosis in macrophages
  • Genetic susceptibility to infection by Cryptococccus in non-HIV related infections
  • Genetic susceptibility to bloodstream infections by Candida albicans
  • High dimensional transcriptional profiling of primary immune deficiencies and autoimmune diseases
  • International Studies: Early clinical and genetic markers of cryptococcal disease in AIDS patients and markers of immune reconstitution syndrome (Africa and India)

Program Description

The Translational Mycology Unit seeks to understand the role of host-pathogen genetics in the outcome of fungal infections. We use an array of methods from fungal genetics, cell biology, immunology, and population genetics to identify and validate weak points of the host-pathogen interface that might facilitate personalized therapeutic intervention.

The laboratory currently is focusing on studies of the AIDS-related pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans, which has become the fourth leading cause of infectious death in regions of the developing world, as well as Candida albicans, a major cause of bloodstream infections in the United States.


Dr. Williamson received his M.D./Ph.D. from Boston University in 1987 and completed a residency in internal medicine at Georgetown University before coming to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a fellowship in infectious diseases. In 1995, after serving a short stint as chief medical officer, Lalmba Sudan, Dr. Williamson joined the faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago as an assistant professor of medicine in the section of infectious diseases. After progressing to the rank of professor of medicine, pathology, microbiology, and immunology, Dr. Williamson then returned to NIH to head the Translational Mycology Unit in the Laboratory of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Research Group

Williamson group
Back row, L-R: Vasilios Pyrgos, Guowu Hu, Matthew Myers, Peter Williamson, Dominique Earland
Middle row, L-R: Travis McQuiston, Christina Thomas, Jin Qiu, Shu Hui Chen, Nannan Zhang, Estefania Fernandez
Front row, L-R: Doralina Ruiz-Fleites, Yoon-Dong Park, Priyanka Yadav

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Selected Publications

Panepinto J, Komperda K, Frases S, Park YD, Djordjevic JT, Casadevall A, Williamson PR. Sec6-dependent sorting of fungal extracellular exosomes and laccase of Cryptococcus neoformans. Mol Microbiol. 2009 Mar;71(5):1165-76.

Hu G, Hacham M, Waterman SR, Panepinto J, Shin S, Liu X, Gibbons J, Valyi-Nagy T, Obara K, Jaffe HA, Ohsumi Y, Williamson PR. PI3K signaling of autophagy is required for starvation tolerance and virulence of Cryptococcus neoformans. J Clin Invest. 2008 Mar;118(3):1186-97.

Waterman SR, Hacham M, Hu G, Zhu X, Park YD, Shin S, Panepinto J, Valyi-Nagy T, Beam C, Husain S, Singh N, Williamson PR. Role of a CUF1/CTR4 copper regulatory axis in the virulence of Cryptococcus neoformans. J Clin Invest. 2007 Mar;117(3):794-802.

Panepinto J, Liu L, Ramos J, Zhu X, Valyi-Nagy T, Eksi S, Fu J, Jaffe HA, Wickes B, Williamson PR. The DEAD-box RNA helicase VAD1 regulates multiple virulence-associated genes in Cryptococcus neoformans. J Clin Invest. 2005 Mar;115(3):632-41.

Visit PubMed for a complete publication listing.

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Last Updated March 25, 2013