John C. Panepinto PhD

John Panepinto

John C. Panepinto

Professor, Senior Associate Dean for Biomedical Education

Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

Specialty/Research Focus

Eukaryotic Pathogenesis; Gene Expression; Infectious Disease; Microbial Pathogenesis; Microbiology; RNA; Signal Transduction

Contact Information
955 Main Street
Room 5229
Buffalo, New York 14203
Phone: (716) 829-2090

Professional Summary:

There are estimated to be over one million species of fungi on the earth, yet very few of these species are capable of causing deadly systemic infections in humans. One of the major limiting factors for most fungi is their inability to grow at mammalian core body temperature. We utilize the fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans var. grubii as a representative fungal pathogen to understand how these few fungi have adapted to growth at mammalian body temperature. C. neoformans is a worthy pathogen, as it is estimated to cause nearly 200,000 deaths from meningoencephalitis per year, primarily in Africa and Southeast Asia as an HIV/AIDS comorbidity. We use the temperature-limited Cryptococcus amylolentus as a comparator; it is an environmental strain that produces similar virulence factors to C. neoformans and is fully virulent in surrogate invertebrate hosts at permissive temperatures.

We have discovered that host temperature adaptation in C. neoformans is accompanied by a reprogramming of gene expression at the level of messenger RNA (mRNA) stability. In response to temperature stress, C. neoformans rapidly degrades mRNAs that encode energy consuming machinery such as ribosomes. At the same time, it prioritizes the translation of stress-responsive mRNAs on existing ribosomes.

Because mRNA synthesis and decay are coupled processes, we seek to identify the protein components of mRNA complexes that mediate the specificity of this decay process and posttranslational modifications, such as arginine methylation and phosphorylation, that modify their function. In addition, we are investigating the signaling pathways that accelerate or slow mRNA decay in response to specific environmental stimuli such as host temperature and nutrient deprivation.

Finally, mRNA decay not only alters gene expression at the posttranscriptional level, but the degradation of abundant mRNAs during stress releases nucleotide intermediates that can be utilized by the stressed cell to promote genome stability. We are investigating the process of mRNA degradation as well as nucleotide metabolic pathways as drug targets in C. neoformans and other fungal pathogens. Our goal is to define the unique attributes of C. neoformans that confer pathogenicity and to identify potential targets for novel therapeutics.

Each of my students has a project that contributes to the overall goals of my research team. Students in my laboratory work independently, though with frequent interaction with me regarding the direction of investigation and interpretation of data. Regular meetings allow us to provide input on each other’s projects. I expect my students to present their work at least once per year at a national or international meeting, and I expect them to do the bulk of the work in writing papers describing their findings for publication.

Education and Training:

  • Fellowship, Postdoctoral Training, University of Illinois at Chicago, Division of Infectious Diseases (2008)
  • PhD, Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine, University of Cincinnati (2002)
  • BS, Biochemistry, Virginia Tech (1997)
  • BS, Biology (Microbiology and Immunology), Virginia Tech (1997)


  • Senior Associate Dean for Biomedical Education, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (2022-present)
  • Professor, Microbiology and Immunology, University at Buffalo, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (2020-present)
  • Director of Admissions, PhD Program in Biomedical Sciences, Research and Graduate Education, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo (2018–2022)
  • Associate Professor, Microbiology and Immunology, University at Buffalo, the State University of New York Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (2014–2020)
  • Assistant Professor, Microbiology and Immunology, University at Buffalo, the State University of New York Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (2008–2014)
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Section of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago (2003–2008)
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Cincinnati (2002–2003)
  • Adjunct Faculty, Biology, The College of Mount St. Joseph (2002)

Awards and Honors:

  • Faculty Award of Excellence in Promoting Diversity and Cultural Inclusion (2021)

Research Expertise:

  • Drug target discovery: Pathogenic fungi
  • Fungal Pathogenesis
  • Molecular mycology: Molecular mechanisms oof Cryptococcosis, C. neoformans stress adaptation and pathogenesis, mRNA decay in stress-responsive reprogramming of the translating mRNA pool, PUF-protein mediated post-transcriptional regulation, protein arginine methylation in C. neoformans stress response attenuation, mRNA 3’UTR G-quadruplexes in post-transcriptional regulation
  • RNA Biochemistry

Research Centers:

  • Witebsky Center for Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology

UB 2020 Strategic Strengths:

  • Molecular Recognition in Biological Systems and Bioinformatics

Grants and Sponsored Research:

  • August 2021–July 2026
    Ribosome Heterogeneity in C. neoformans
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • July 2021–June 2023
    The Translational Response of C. neoformans to Oxidative Stress and Macrophage Phagocytosis.
    Role: Co-Principal Investigator
  • May 2017–April 2022
    Stress Responsive Reprogramming of Translating mRNA Pools in C. neoformans
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • August 2018–July 2021
    Regulation of Intrinsic Caspofungin Resistance in C. neoformans (NCE)
    National Insitute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • January 2017–December 2019
    Control of Host-Induced C. neoformans Morphogenesis by Protein Arginine Methylation
    American Heart Association Founders Affiliate
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • July 2011–June 2016
    R01 AI089920-01A1 Stress Responsive RNA Regulons in Cryptococcus neoformans
    Role: Principal Investigator


  • Small molecule imaging of fungi by positron emission tomography scanning. (2018)

Journal Articles:

See all (38 more)

Professional Memberships:

  • AAMC-Working Group on Graduate Research Education and Training (GREAT); Jacobs School Representative (2019–present)
  • American Society for Microbiology (ASM)
  • RNA Society
  • Genetics Society of America (GSA)


  • "Holistic Graduate Admissions - The Jacobs School Experience" UB Graduate School Workshop in Holistic Admissions (2022)
  • "Coping Skills as Professional Development" CLIMB Workshop (2022)
  • "Post-transcriptional control of the C. neoformans-host interface" Invited Seminar: University of Maryland, College Park (2022)
  • "A Central Role of mRNA Decay in C. neoformans Stress Adaptation" UB Biological Sciences Seminar Series (2021)
  • "RNA Decay in C. neoformans: Letting go of the past for a pathogenic future" Oklahoma State Microbiology and Immunology Seminar Series (2020)

Service Activities:

  • Steering Committee of the AAMC Group on Research Education and Training (GREAT); Member at Large (2022–2025)
  • Diversity, Inclusion and Learning Environment Committee; Co-Chair (2022–present)
  • Training, Education and Development sub-committee of DIALE; Co-Chair (2022–present)
  • Faculty Council Bylaws Committee; Member (2021–2022)
  • Faculty Council Committee on Graduate Education (2021–present)
  • ; Academic Editor, PLoS One (2021)
  • Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology; Academic Editor (2021–present)
  • DIALE Learning Environment Task Force; Committee Member, RGE Rep (2020–present)
  • MD/PhD Admissions; Committee Member (2020–2021)
  • RGE Mentor Development Training Committee; Co-lead (2020–present)
  • DIALE Curriculum Task Force; Committee Member (2020–present)
  • Dean's Diversity, Inclusion and Learning Environment Task Force; RGE Representative (2020–present)
  • Pre-Tenure Faculty Mentoring Committee; Chair (2019–present)
  • NIH; HCAC;; Panel Member (2019–2023)
  • MS Curriculum Committee; Committee Member (2019–2021)
  • Director of Recruiting and Admissions, PhD Program in Biomedical Sciences; Director of Recruiting and Admissions, PhD Program in Biomedical Sciences (2018–present)
  • Diversity, Inclusion and Learning Environment Committee; RGE Representative (2018–present)
  • Radiation Safety Committee; Radiation Safety Committee (2017–present)
  • Graduate Affairs Committee; Committee Member (2012–2021)

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Contact Information

955 Main Street
Room 5229
Buffalo, New York 14203
Phone: (716) 829-2090