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Assistant Research Professor

Emma Camacho, PhD, explores strategies to modify melanin production in organisms that may pose a threat to human health.

Contact Info

Research Interests

Melanin; Fungi; Cell Wall; Malaria; Gut microbiota

Experiences & Accomplishments
Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research
University of the Andes

The astonishing colour patterns in nature are due to diverse biological molecules (biochromes). Among these, melanins are the most ancient pigments in living organisms with a wide spectrum of biological functions ranging from protection and defense to mating.

I study the process of melanization in malaria-transmitting mosquitoes and in human fungal pathogens. My research as a humanistic basic science practitioner focuses on expanding our knowledge in the cellular biology behind color and across evolutionary distant organisms. By means of multidisciplinary approaches, I investigate ways to boost or impair melanin production in organisms that may pose a threat to human health, particularly to those in underprivileged communities.

Honors & Awards

2017-19 Postdoctoral Fellowship - Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute (JHMRI)

2015 Scholarship - Young International Society for Human and Animal Mycology (YISHAM)

2009-10 Excellence Scholarship - Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC)

2005-08 Individual Scholarship - National Endowment for Science Technology and Innovation (FONACIT)

Select Publications

On the basic sciences, our research using the fungal model of Cryptococcus spp. is critical to understand the architecture of melanin polymers and their interaction with surrounding components. Whilst in industry, it has multiple applications ranging from radioprotection and light harvesting to therapeutics and drug delivery.

  • Chrissian C, Lin CP-C, Camacho E, Casadevall A, Neiman AM, Stark RE. (2020). Unconventional constituents and shared molecular architecture of the melanized cell wall of C. neoformans and spore wall of S. cerevisiae. J Fungi 6(4), 329.

  • Chrissian C, Camacho E, Kelly JE, Wang H, Casadevall A, Stark RE. (2020) Solid-state NMR spectroscopy identifies three classes of lipids in C. neoformans melanized cell walls and whole fungal cells. J Biol Chem 295(44):15083-15096. DOI: 10.1074/jbc.RA120.015201

  • Park Y-D, Chen SH, Camacho E, Casadevall A, Williamson PR. (2020) Role of the ESCRT pathway in laccase trafficking and virulence of Cryptococcus neoformans. Infect Immun 88(7):e00954-19. DOI: 10.1128/IAI.00954-19

  • Chrissian C, Camacho E, Fu MS, Prados-Rosales R, Chatterjee S, Cordero RJB, Lodge JK, Casadevall A, Stark RE. (2020) Melanin deposition in two Cryptococcus species depends on cell-wall composition and flexibility. J Biol Chem 295(7):1815-1828. DOI: 10.1074/jbc.RA119.011949 Honored as Best Molecular Biophysics article selected for collection "The Year in JBC: 2020"

  • Camacho E, Vij R*, Chrissian C, Prados-Rosales R, Gil D, O’Meally R, Cordero RJB, Cole RN, McCaffery JM, Stark RE, Casadevall A. (2019) The structural unit of fungal melanin in Cryptococcus neoformans cell wall. J Biol Chem 294(27):10471-10489. DOI: 10.1074/jbc.RA119.008684 *First co-authorship. Honored as JBC Recommended Read (July 17, 2019)