Sheng Sun

Heitman – Lab Members

Headshot of Sheng SunAssistant Research Professor
320 CARL Building
Box 3546 DUMC
Durham, N.C. 27710
Phone: 919.684.3036
Fax: 919.684.2790

My research mainly focuses on pathogenic Cryptococcus species and its closely related non-pathogenic species, including Cryptococcus amylolentus, Filobasidiella depauperata, Cryptococcus heveanensis, etc. Specifically, I am interested in: 1) the evolution of mating type locus in fungi, including the transition between tetrapolar and bipolar mating systems; 2) sexual reproduction, as well as the meiotic and mitotic recombination occurring during sexual reproduction, in pathogenic Cryptococcus species and their non-pathogenic sister species; 3) the genetic architectures of the traits that contribute to the virulence of pathogenic Cryptococcus species; and 4) the mechanisms and evolutionary consequences of uniparental mitochondrial inheritance in Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus amylolentus.


Sun, S., Yadav, V., Billmyre, R.B., Cuomo, C.A., Nowrousian, M., Wang, L., Souciet, J.-L., Boekhout, T., Porcel, B., Wincker, P., Granek, J.A., Sanyal, K., and Heitman, J. Fungal genome and mating system transitions facilitated by chromosomal translocations involving intercentromeric recombination, PLOS Biology, 15: e2002527, 2017.

Desjardins C, Giamberardino C, Sykes S, Yu CH, Tenor J, Chen Y, Yang T, Jones A, Sun S, Haverkamp M, Heitman J, Litvintseva A, Perfect J, Cuomo CA. (2017) Population genomics and the evolution of virulence in the fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. Genome Research doi: 10.1101/gr.218727.116

Coelhoa MA, Bakkerenb G, Sun S, Hoodd ME, Tatiana Giraud T. (2017) Fungal sex: the Basidiomycota. Microbiol Spectrum 5:FUNK-0046-2016. doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.FUNK-0046-2016

Zhu Y, Engström PG, Tellgren-Roth C, Baudo CD, Kennell JC, Sun S, et al. (2017) Proteogenomics produces comprehensive and highly accurate protein-coding gene annotation in a complete genome assembly of Malassezia sympodialis. Nuclear Acid Research 45:2629-2643.

Sun S, Heitman J. (2016) Running hot and cold: recombination around and within mating-type loci of fungi and other eukaryotes. In: Environmental and Microbial Relationships. Editors: Druzhinina, S. Irina and Kubicek, P. Christian. Springer International Publishing

Wu G, Zhao H, Li C, Rajapakse MP, Wong WC, et al. (2015) Genus-wide comparative genomics of Malassezia delineates its phylogeny, physiology, and niche adaptation on human skin. PLoS Genet 11: e1005614.

Sun S, Heitman J. (2015) From two to one: unipolar sexual reproduction. Fungal Biology Reviews 29:118-125.

Kourist R, Kracht O, Lipzen A, Nolan M, Ohm R, Grigoriev I, Sun S, Heitman J, Brück T, Nowrousian M. (2015) Genome and transcriptome analysis of the oil-accumulating basidiomycete yeast Trichosporon oleaginosus. mBio: 6. doi:10.1128/mBio.00918-15.

Sun S, Billmyre RB, Mieczkowski P, Heitman J (2014) Unisexual reproduction drives meiotic recombination and phenotypic and karyotypic plasticity in Cryptococcus neoformans. PLoS Genetics 10: e1004849. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004849.

Fu C, Sun S, Billmyre RB, Roach KC, Heitman J (2014) Unisexual versus bisexual mating in Cryptococcus neoformans: Consequences and biological impacts. Fungal Genetics and Biology pii: S1087-1845.

Roach KC, Feretzaki M, Sun S, Heitman J (2014) Chapter Five – Unisexual Reproduction. In: Theodore Friedmann JCD, Stephen FG, editors. Advances in Genetics: Academic Press. pp. 255-305.

Janbon G, Ormerod KL, Paulet D, Byrnes EJ, III, Yadav V, et al. (2014) Analysis of the genome and transcriptome of Cryptococcus neoformans grubii reveals complex RNA expression and microevolution leading to virulence attenuation. PLoS Genetics 10: e1004261.

Lee SC *, Sun S *, Heitman J (2014) Unseen sex in ancient virgin fungi. New Phytologist 201: 3-5.
(* equal contribution)

James TY, Sun S, Li W, Heitman J, Kuo H-C, et al. (2013) Polyporales genomes reveal the genetic architecture underlying tetrapolar and bipolar mating systems. Mycologia 105: 1374-1390.

Heitman J, Sun S, James TY (2013) Evolution of fungal sexual reproduction. Mycologia 105: 1-27.

Lee SC, Phadke S, Sun S, Heitman J (2012) Pseudohyphal growth of Cryptococcus neoformans is a reversible dimorphic transition in response to ammonium and requires the Amt1/2 ammonium permeases. Eukaryotic Cell 11: 1391-1398.

Sun S, Heitman J (2012) Should Y stay or should Y go: The evolution of non-recombining sex chromosomes. Bioessays 34: 938-942.

Wang X, Wang P, Sun S, Darwiche S, Idnurm A, et al. (2012) Transgene induced co-suppression during vegetative growth in Cryptococcus neoformans. PLoS Genetics 8: e1002885.

Sun S, Hsueh Y-P, Heitman J (2012) Gene conversion occurs within the mating-type locus of Cryptococcus neoformans during sexual reproduction. PLoS Genetics 8: e1002810.

Floudas D, Binder M, Riley R, Barry K, Blanchette RA, et al. (2012) The paleozoic origin of enzymatic lignin decomposition reconstructed from 31 fungal genomes. Science 336: 1715-1719.

Wang X, Li W, Sun S, Kozubowski L, Lee S, et al. (2012) Know your enemy: how to build and vanquish a global fungal scourge. Mycopathologia 173: 295-301.

Findley K *, Sun S *, Fraser JA, Hsueh Y-P, Averette AF, et al. (2012) Discovery of a modified tetrapolar sexual cycle in Cryptococcus amylolentus and the evolution of MAT in the Cryptococcus species complex. PLoS Genetics 8: e1002528.
(* equal contribution)

Ni M, Feretzaki M, Sun S, Wang X, Heitman J (2011) Sex in fungi. Annual Review of Genetics 45: 405-430.

Sun S, Metin B, Findley K, Fonseca A, Heitman J (2011) Validation of Kwoniella heveanensis, teleomorph of the basidiomycetous yeast Cryptococcus heveanensis. Mycotaxon 116: 227-229.

Sun S, Heitman J (2011) Is sex necessary? BMC Biology 9: 56.

Chowdhary A, Hiremath SS, Sun S, Kowshik T, Randhawa HS, et al. (2011) Genetic differentiation, recombination and clonal expansion in environmental populations of Cryptococcus gattii in India. Environmental Microbiology 13: 1875-1888.

Chowdhary A, Randhawa HS, Sundar G, Kathuria S, Prakash A, et al. (2011) In vitro antifungal susceptibility profiles and genotypes of 308 clinical and environmental isolates of Cryptococcus neoformans grubii and Cryptococcus gattii serotype B from north-western India. Journal of Medical Microbiology 60: 961-967.

Rodriguez-Carres M, Findley K, Sun S, Dietrich FS, Heitman J (2010) Morphological and genomic characterization of Filobasidiella depauperata: a homothallic sibling species of the pathogenic Cryptococcus species complex. PLoS ONE 5: e9620.

Skosireva I, James T, Sun S, Xu J (2010) Mitochondrial inheritance in haploid x non-haploid crosses in Cryptococcus neoformans. Current Genetics 56: 163-176.

Sun S, Xu J (2009) Chromosomal rearrangements between serotype A and D strains in Cryptococcus neoformans. PLoS ONE 4: e5524.