Cell specialization, cell communication and nonself recognition are important processes in microbial organisms such as filamentous fungi. Growth in this group of organisms occurs by hyphal tip extension, branching and fusion to form an exquisitely interconnected network. Dr. Glass' research interests are focused on understanding communication and signaling mechanisms that mediate cell fusion, using the filamentous fungus, Neurospora crassa, as a model. Although cell fusion is important for formation of the mycelial network in Neurospora, nonself fusion between genetically different individuals can result in programmed cell death (PCD). Dr. Glass' lab investigates mechanisms of PCD associated with nonself recognition and links between the fusion machinery and the induction of the pathway to death. Recently, she has been capitalizing on the experimental tractability and availability of a large number of mutants in N. crassa to dissect the primary function of this organism in nature, which is the degradation of plant biomass. She and her lab are using genomic and genetic tools to decipher transcriptional, secretory and enzymatic regulatory mechanisms associated with plant cell wall deconstruction. These efforts have the potential to provide tools and components that can be used to optimize plant biomass utilization for the production of biofuels.