Lab Members

Blake Billmyre

Postdoctoral Researcher

Blake was born and raised just outside Baltimore, Maryland. He did his undergraduate work in Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics at the University of Maryland, where he worked on bioenergy in bacteria and evolution of development in plants. After a short stint as a post-bac fellow at the National Cancer Institute, Blake moved to Duke University, where he worked with Joseph Heitman studying the genomics of the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus deuterogattii. Blake's thesis work identified a systems polymorphism in the RNAi pathway, as well as a unique hypermutator subclade characterized by loss of mismatch repair. He completed his PhD in Genetics and Genomics in 2017 and moved to the Stowers Institute and the Zanders lab as a postdoc. 

Blake is broadly interested in genetics and genome evolution. In the Zanders lab he has built tools to examine evolution of sex and meiosis in fission yeast. He has also adapted these tools to the fungal pathogen Cryptococcus to examine evolution of virulence and the genetic architecture underlying antifungal drug resistance. 

You can contact Blake at or on twitter at @blake_billmyre.




Diverse mating phenotypes impact the spread of wtf meiotic drivers in S. pombe.
López Hernández JF, Helston RM, Lange JJ, Billmyre RB, Schaffner SH, Eickbush MT, McCroskey S, Zanders SE. Elife. 2021 Dec 13;10:e70812. doi: 10.7554/eLife.70812. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34895466.

Genome-wide identification of sexual-reproduction genes in fission yeast via transposon-insertion sequencing
Billmyre RB, Eickbush MT, Craig CJ, Lange JJ, Wood C, Helston RM, Zanders SE. bioRxiv. 2021.08.31.458362; doi:

5-fluorocytosine resistance is associated with hypermutation and alterations in capsule biosynthesis in Cryptococcus
Billmyre RB*, Clancey SA*, Li L, Doering T, Heitman J. Nat Commun. 2020;11(1):127. Published 2020 Jan 8. doi:10.1038/s41467-019-13890-z. 

A novel resistance pathway for calcineurin inhibitors in the human-pathogenic Mucorales Mucor circinelloides.
Vellanki S, Billmyre RB, Lorenzen A, Campbell M, Turner B, Huh EY, Heitman J, Lee SC. mBio. 2020;11(1):e02949-19. Published 2020 Jan 28. doi:10.1128/mBio.02949-19.

Roles for stress response and cell wall biosynthesis pathways in caspofungin tolerance in Cryptococcus neoformans.
Pianalto KM, Billmyre RB, Telzrow CL, Alspaugh JA. Genetics. 2019;213(1):213-227. doi:10.1534/genetics.119.302290.

Broad antifungal resistance mediated by RNAi-dependent epimutation in the basal human fungal pathogen Mucor circinelloides.
Chang Z, Billmyre RB, Lee SC, Heitman J. PLoS Genet. 2019;15(2):e1007957. Published 2019 Feb 11. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1007957.

Genetic and genomic analyses reveal boundaries between species closely related to Cryptococcus pathogens.
Passer AR, Coelho MA, Billmyre RB, Nowrousian M, Mittelbach M, Yurkov AM, Averette AF, Cuomo CA, Sun S, Heitman J. mBio. 2019;10(3):e00764-19. Published 2019 Jun 11. doi:10.1128/mBio.00764-19.

Gastrointestinal microbiota alteration induced by Mucor circinelloides in a murine model.
Mueller KD, Zhang H, Serrano CR, Billmyre RB, Huh EY, Wiemann P, Keller NP, Wang Y, Heitman J, Lee SC.  J Microbiol. 2019;57(6):509-520. doi:10.1007/s12275-019-8682-x.

A high-resolution map of meiotic recombination in Cryptococcus deneoformans demonstrates decreased recombination in unisexual reproduction.
Roth C, Sun S, Billmyre RB, Heitman J, Magwene PM. Genetics. 2018;209(2):567-578. doi:10.1534/genetics.118.300996.

RNAi-dependent centromere evolution in closely related fungal species.
Yadav V, Sun S, Billmyre RB, Thimmappa BC, Bakkeren G, Cuomo C, Heitman J, Sanyal K. PNAS. 2018;115(12):3108-3113; first published March 5, 2018;

Whole genome analysis illustrates global clonal population structure of the ubiquitous dermatophyte pathogen Trichophyton rubrum.
Persinoti GF, Martinez DA, Li W, Döğen A, Billmyre RB, Averette A, Goldberg JM, Shea T, Young S, Zeng Q, Oliver BG, Barton R, Metin B, Hilmioğlu-Polat S, Ilkit M, Gräser Y, Martinez-Rossi NM, White TC, Heitman J, Cuomo CA. Genetics. 2018;208(4):1657-1669. doi:10.1534/genetics.117.300573.

Natural mismatch repair mutations mediate phenotypic diversity and drug resistance in Cryptococcus deuterogattii.
Billmyre RB, Clancey SA, Heitman J. Elife. 2017;6:e28802. Published 2017 Sep 26. doi:10.7554/eLife.28802.

Genetic and epigenetic engines of diversity in pathogenic microbes.
Billmyre RB, Heitman J. PLoS Pathog. 2017;13(9):e1006468. Published 2017 Sep 14. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1006468.

Importance of resolving fungal nomenclature: the case of multiple pathogenic species in the Cryptococcus genus.
Hagen F, Lumbsch HT, Arsenijevic VA, Badali H, Bertout S, Billmyre RB, Bragulat MR, Cabañes FJ,Carbia M, Chakrabarti
A, Chaturvedi S, Chaturvedi V, Chen M, Chowdhary A, Colom M-F, Cornely OA, Crous PW, Cuétara MS, Diaz MR, Espinel-Ingroff A, Fakhim H, Falk R, Fang W, Herkert PF, Rodríguez CF, Fraser JA, Gené J, Guarro J, Idnurm A, Illnait-Zaragozi M-T, Khan Z, Khayhan K, Kolecka A, Kurtzman CP, Lagrou K, Liao W, Linares C, Meis JF, Nielsen K, Nyazika TK, Pan W, Pekmezovic M, Polacheck I, Posteraro B, Filho FQT, Romeo O, Sánchez M, Sampaio A, Sanguinetti M, Sriburee P, Sugita T, Taj-Aldeen SJ, Takashima M, Taylor JW, Theelen B, Tomazin R, Verweij PE, Wahyuningsih R, Wang P, Boekhout T. mSphere. 2017;2(4):e00238-17. Published 2017 Aug 30. doi:10.1128/mSphere.00238-17.

Fungal genome and mating system transitions facilitated by chromosomal translocations involving intercentromeric recombination.
Sun S, Yadav V, Billmyre RB, Cuomo CA, Nowrousian M, et al. PLoS Biol. 2017;15(8):e2002527. Published 2017 Aug 11. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.2002527.

Elucidation of the calcineurin-Crz1 stress response transcriptional network in the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans.
Chow EWL, Clancey SA, Billmyre RB, Averette AF, Granek JA, et al. PLoS Genet. 2017;13(4):e1006667. Published 2017 Apr 4. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1006667.

Epidemiology and evolution of fungal pathogens in plants and animals. in Genetics and Evolution of Infectious Diseases. 
Gladieux P, Byrnes EJ, Aguileta G, Fisher M, Billmyre RB, Heitman J, Giraud T.  In Genetics and Evolution of Infectious Diseases: Second Edition, 71–98, 2017.

Proteogenomics produces comprehensive and highly accurate protein-coding gene annotation in a complete genome assembly of Malassezia sympodialis.
Zhu Y, Engström PG, Tellgren-Roth C, Baudo C, Kennell JC, Sun S, Billmyre RB, Schroeder M, Andersson A, Holm T, Sigurgeirsson B, Wu G, Sankaranarayanan SR, Siddharthan R, Sanyal K, Lundeberg J, Nystedt B, Boekhout T, Dawson TL, Heitman J, Scheynius A, Lehtiö J. Nucleic Acids Res. 2017;45(5):2629-2643. doi:10.1093/nar/gkx006.

Identification of small RNAs in extracellular vesicles from the commensal yeast Malassezia sympodialis.
Rayner S, Bruhn S, Vallhov H, Andersson A, Billmyre RB, Scheynius A.  Sci Rep. 2017;7:39742. Published 2017 Jan 4. doi:10.1038/srep39742.

Cancer-associated mitochondrial isocitrate dehydrogenase mutations induce mitochondrial DNA instability in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
Kingsbury JM, Shamaprasad N, Billmyre RB, Cardenas ME, Heitman J. Hum Mol Genet. 2016;25(16):3524-3538. doi:10.1093/hmg/ddw195.

Gene network polymorphism illuminates loss and retention of novel RNAi silencing components in the Cryptococcus pathogenic species complex.
Feretzaki M*, Billmyre RB*, Clancey SA, Wang X, Heitman J. PLoS Genet. 2016;12(3):e1005868. Published 2016 Mar 4. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1005868.  *Authors contributed equally

Genus-wide comparative genomics of Malassezia delineates its phylogeny, physiology, and niche adaptation on human skin.
Wu G, Zhao H, Li C, Rajapakse MP, Wong WC, Xu J, Saunders CW, Reeder NL, Reilman RA, Scheynius A, Sun S, Billmyre RB, Li W, Averette A, Mieczkowski P, Heitman J, Theelen B, Schroder M, Sessions PFD, Butler G, Maurer-Stroh S, Boekhout T, Nagarajan N, Dawson TL.  PLoS Genet. 2015;11(11):e1005614. Published 2015 Nov 5. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1005614.

Unisexual versus bisexual mating in Cryptococcus neoformans: Consequences and biological impacts.
Fu C, Sun S, Billmyre RB, Roach KC, Heitman J. Fungal Genet Biol. 2015;78:65-75. doi:10.1016/j.fgb.2014.08.008.

Unisexual reproduction drives meiotic recombination and phenotypic and karyotypic plasticity in Cryptococcus neoformans.
Sun S, Billmyre RB, Mieczkowski P, Heitman J. PLoS Genet. 2014;10(12):e1004849. Published 2014 Dec 11. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004849.

Highly recombinant VGII Cryptococcus gattii population develops clonal outbreak clusters through both sexual macroevolution and asexual microevolution.
Billmyre RB, Croll D, Li W, Mieczkowski P, Carter D, Cuomo CA, Kronstad JW, Heitman J. mBio. 2014;5(4):e01494-14. Published 2014 Jul 29. doi:10.1128/mBio.01494-14.

Cryptococcus gattii VGIII isolates causing infections in HIV/AIDS patients in Southern California: Identification of the local environmental source as arboreal.
Springer DJ, Billmyre RB, Filler E, Voelz K, Pursall R, Mieczkowski P, Larsen R, Dietrich F, May R, Filler S, Heitman J. PLoS Pathog. 2014;10(8):e1004285. Published 2014 Aug 21. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1004285. 

Analysis of a foodborne fungal pathogen outbreak: virulence and genome of a Mucor circinelloides isolate from yogurt.
Lee SC, Billmyre RB, Li A, Carson S, Sykes SM, Huh EY, Mieczkowski P, Ko D, Cuomo CA, Heitman J.  mBio. 2014;5(4):e01390-14. Published 2014 Jul 8. doi:10.1128/mBio.01390-14.

Analysis of the genome and transcriptome of Cryptococcus neoformans var. grubii reveals complex RNA expression and microevolution leading to virulence attenuation.
Janbon G, Ormerod KL, Paulet D, Byrnes EJ, Yadav V, Chatterjee G, Mullapudi N, Hon C, Billmyre RB, Brunel F, Bahn YS, Chen W, Chen Y, Chow EWL, Coppee JY, Floyd-Averette A, Gaillardin C, Gerik KJ, Goldberg J, Gonzalez-Hilarion S, Gujja S, Hamlin JL, Hsueh YP, Ianiri G, Jones S, Kodira CD, Kozubowski L, Lam W, Marra M, Mesner LD, Mieczkowski P, Moyrand F, Nielsen K, Proux C, Rossignol T, Schein JE, Sun S, Wollschlaeger C, Wood IA, Zeng Q, Neuveglise C, Newlon C, Perfect JR, Lodge JK, Idnurm A, Stajich JE, Kronstad JW, Sanyal K, Heitman J, Fraser JA, Cuomo CA, Dietrich FS. PLoS Genet. 2014;10(4):e1004261. Published 2014 Apr 17. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004261.

RNAi function, diversity, and loss in the fungal kingdom.
Billmyre RB, Calo S, Feretzaki M, Wang X, Heitman J. Chromosome Res. 2013;21(6-7):561-572. doi:10.1007/s10577-013-9388-2.

Generators of phenotypic diversity in the evolution of pathogenic microorganisms.
Calo S, Billmyre RB, Heitman J. PLoS Pathog. 2013;9(3):e1003181. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003181.

Cryptococcus gattii, no longer an accidental pathogen?
Springer DJ, Phadke S, Billmyre RB, Heitman J. Curr Fungal Infect Rep. 2012;6(4):245-256. doi:10.1007/s12281-012-0111-0.

Photosynthetic microbial fuel cells with positive light response.
Zou Y, Pisciotta J, Billmyre RB, Baskakov IV.  Biotechnol Bioeng. 2009;104(5):939-946. doi:10.1002/bit.22466.