Tami McDonald

Assistant Professor



Tami McDonald is a microbiologist and evolutionary geneticist specializing in the evolution of symbioses in fungi, plants and bacteria. She employs techniques from phylogenetics, genetics, genomics, epigenetics and molecular biology to understand nutrient exchange molecules and pathways. Her work focuses on the transport of nitrogen and carbon between symbiotic partners. Since joining the faculty in 2014, Dr. McDonald has welcomed student collaborators to participate in independent projects related to reconstructing the evolutionary history of a protein family responsible for the transport of ammonium across cell membranes as well as other projects relating to nutrient transport and symbiotic life.

  • Phylogenetic reconstruction of the evolutionary history of genes and organisms
  • Investigating the evolution and development of lichenization--the complex, long-term, obligately symbiotic relationship between fungi and photosynthetic organisms like green algae and cyanobacteria--through comparative analysis of genomes, epigenomes, and transcriptomes
  • Functional characterization of transport proteins using heterologous expression and electrophysiology
  • Sequencing and assembling the genomes and transcriptomes of lichenizing fungi, algae and cyanobacteria

Ph.D., Biology/University Program in Genetics and Genomics
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, 2011
Harold Sanford Perry Prize
Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Fellowship for Undergraduate Instruction

Master of Science, Plant Biology
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, 2000

Bachelor of Arts, Biology and English
Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa, Honors, Phi Beta Kappa, 1996

3M Student-Faculty Collaborative Research Award. St. Catherine University, 2016

Summer Scholars Collaborative Undergraduate Research Program. St. Catherine University, 2015

Faculty Research and Scholarly Activities Award, St. Catherine University, 2015

Mason Hale Award, International Association for Lichenology, 2014

Students projects

Students in the McDonald lab work on independent projects to identify, clone, and characterize transport proteins. Through these projects students gain proficiency in laboratory techniques from the disciplines of genetics, genomics, and molecular biology including: cell culture, PCR. molecular cloning, genomic and transcriptomic library construction, and bioinformatics. Students work with model microbes like the bread yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the slime mode Dictyostelium discoideum, and E. coli as well as various non-model bacteria, fungi, green algae, land plants, and eukaryotic microbes. Students present their work at local and national scientific meetings.

Student work has been supported by these funding sources and programs

St. Catherine University: 3M Research Grant – Student-Faculty Collaboration: Characterization of ammonium transporters from the model plant Marchantia polymorpha (2016)

St. Catherine University, Faculty Research Grant: Investigating the evolutionary history of ammonium transport genes (2015)

St. Catherine University, Assistantship Mentoring Program, Cloning and characterizing ammonium transporters from the model slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum (2015–2016)

St. Catherine University: Summer Scholars Collaborative Undergraduate Research Program: Cloning and amplification of ammonium transporter genes in Chlorokybus atmophyticus, a streptophyte green alga (2015)

St. Catherine University: Summer Scholars Collaborative Undergraduate research program: Identification and cloning of ammonium transporter genes from the green alga Coleochaete scutata, closely related to early land plants

  • Foundations of Biology I
  • Introduction to Microbiology
  • Biology of Microorganisms
  • Senior Seminar

Assistant Professor, St. Catherine University, 2014–Present

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, 2014

McDonald, T. and Ward, J. (2016) Evolution of electrogenic ammonium transporters (AMTs) in plants. Frontiers in Plant Physiology 7:352.

Smith, K., Achan, B., Huppler Hullsiek, K., McDonald, T., Okagaki, L. H., Akampurira A., Rhein J. R., Meya D. B., Boulware, D. R., Nielsen, K. (2015) Increased antifungal drug resistance in clinical isolates of Cryptococcus neoformans in Uganda. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 59: 7197-7204.

Chen, Y., Toffaletti, D., Tenor, J., Litvintseva, A., Fang, C., Mitchell, T., McDonald, T., Nielsen, K., Boulware, D., Bicanic, T., and Perfect, J. (2014) The Cryptococcus neoformans transcriptome at the site of human meningitis. MBio 5(1):e01087-13.

Boulware DR, von Hohenberg M, Rolfes MA, Bahr NC, Rhein J, Akampurira A, Williams DA, Taseera K, Schutz C, McDonald T, Muzoora C, Meintjes G, Meya DB, Nielsen K, Huppler Hullsiek K. (2015) Human immune response varies by the degree of relative cryptococcal antigen shedding. Open Forum Infectious Diseases 3(1)ofv194.

Hodkinson, B., Lendemer, J., McDonald, T., Harris, R. (2014) The status of Sticta sylvatica, an ‘exceedingly rare’ lichen species, in eastern North America. Evansia 31(1): 17-24.

McDonald T., Dietrich, F., and Lutzoni, F. (2013) High-throughput genome sequencing of lichenizing fungi to assess gene loss in the ammonium transporter/ammonia permease gene family. BMC Genomics 14:225.

McDonald, T., Gaya, E., and Lutzoni, F. (2013) Cultures of lichenizing fungi from the Lecanoromycetes, Eurotiomycetes, Dothidiomycetes and Arthoniomycetes. Symbiosis (59):165-171.

McDonald, T., Wiesner, D., and Nielsen, K. (2012) Cryptococcus. Current Biology 22(14):R554-5.

McDonald T., Dietrich, F., and Lutzoni F. (2012) Multiple horizontal gene transfers of ammonium transporters/ammonia permeases from prokaryotes to eukaryotes: Toward a new functional and evolutionary classification. Molecular Biology and Evolution 29(1):51-60.

Wiesner, D., Moskalenko, O., Corcoran, J., McDonald, T., Rolfes, M., Meya, D., Kajumbula, H., Kambugu, A., Bohjanen, P., Knight, J., Boulware, D., and Nielsen, K. (2012) Cryptococcal genotype influences immunologic response and human clinical outcome after meningitis. mBio 3(5):e00196-12

McDonald, T., Brown, D., Keller, N. P., and Hammond, T. (2005) RNA silencing of mycotoxin production in Aspergillus and Fusarium species. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions 18:539-545.

McDonald, T., Noordermeer, D., Zhang, Y.-Q., Hammond, T., and Keller, N. P. (2005) The ST cluster revisited: Lessons from a genetic model. In: Aflatoxin and Food Safety, H. Abbas, ed. (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press), pp. 117-136.

McDonald, T., Devi, T., Shimizu, K., Sim, S.-C., and Keller, N. P. (2004) Signaling events connecting mycotoxin biosynthesis and sporulation in Aspergillus and Fusarium spp. In: New Horizon of Mycotoxicology for Assuring Food Safety, T. Yoshizawa, ed. (Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan), pp. 139-147.

McDonald, T., Miadlikowska, J., and Lutzoni, F. (2003) The lichen genus Sticta in the Great Smoky Mountains: A phylogenetic study of morphological, chemical, and molecular data. The Bryologist 106:61-79.

McDonald, T., Mukaremera, L., and Nielsen, K. (2015) Analysis of the population structure and virulence of clinically isolated strains of Cryptococcus from localities in sub-Saharan Africa. Mycological Society of America, Edmonton, Canada.

McDonald, T., and Nielsen, K. (2014) The population structure of clinically isolated strains of Cryptococcus for sites in sub-Saharan Africa. 10th International Mycological Congress, Bangkok, Thailand.

McDonald, T., and Nielsen, K. (2014) The population structure of clinically isolated strains of Cryptococcus for sites in sub-Saharan Africa. 9th International Conference on Cryptococcus and Cryptococcosis (ICCC-9), Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

McDonald, T. (2014) Microbial evolution and systematics: DNA (and Lego) building blocks. Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota.

McDonald, T. (2014) The Evolutionary History of Ammonium Transport. St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN

McDonald, T. (2013) Eukaryotic microbiology. College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota.

McDonald, T. (2013) Ecology and evolution of fungal symbioses: From mutualism to pathogenesis. Department of Plant Pathology and Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota.

McDonald, T. and Nielsen, K. (2013) Whole genome sequencing of high- and low-mortality strains of Cryptococcus neoformans var. grubii to discover genetics determinants of virulence. Fungal Genetics Conference, Pacific Grove, California.

McDonald, T. and Nielsen, K. (2012) Multi-locus sequence typing of Cryptococcus neoformans. COAT investigators meeting, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.

McDonald, T., Moskalenko, O., Wiesner, D., and Nielsen, K. (2012) Fungal genotype determines human immune response and mortality in cryptococcal meningitis. Gordon Conference on Cellular and Molecular Fungal Biology, Holderness, New Hampshire.

McDonald, T., Armaleo, D., Dietrich, F., Lutzoni F. (2011) Insights into the evolution and development of the lichen symbiosis: Cladonia grayi as a model lichen. Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

McDonald, T., Armaleo, D., Dietrich, F., Lutzoni F.(2011) Horizontal gene transfer in the evolutionary history of ammonium transporters in fungi. University of Minnesota, Department of Microbiology, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

McDonald, T., Armaleo, D., Dietrich, F., Lutzoni, F. (2010) Horizontal gene transfer in the evolutionary history of ammonium transporters in fungi. International Mycological Conference, Edinburgh, Scotland.

McDonald, T., Armaleo, D., Dietrich, F., Joneson, S., and Lutzoni, F. (2009). Is the acquisition of plant ammonium transporter genes by fungi key to the origin of the lichen symbiosis? Mycological Society of America, Snowbird, Utah.

McDonald, T., Armaleo, D., and Lutzoni, F. (2009). DNA methylation in the lichen-forming fungus Cladonia grayi. Mycological Society of America. Snowbird, Utah.

McDonald., T., Armaleo, D., Dietrich, F., Lutzoni, F. (2008) State-specific DNA methylation in the lichen symbiosis. International Association for Lichenology, Pacific Grove, California.

McDonald., T., Armaleo, D., Dietrich, F., Lutzoni, F. (2006) Genetics and epigenetics of the lichen symbiosis. International Symbiosis Society, Vienna, Austria.