Roy Khalaf

Associate Professor of Biology

After obtaining my BS in Biology from Haigazian University in Lebanon in 1993, I left for the United States to pursue my higher education. In 1995 I joined the Biology Department of the State University of New York at Albany as a graduate student. Six years later and under the supervision of Dr. Richard Zitomer, I graduated with an MS and a PhD in Molecular Biology. I then accepted a postdoctoral research fellowship in the lab of Dr. William Fonzi at the Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington DC. I remained there for one year then returned to Lebanon where I currently serve as an associate professor of molecular biology at the Lebanese American University.

Research Interests

My main research interests revolve around yeast genetics, notably the opportunistic human fungal pathogens, Candida albicans, and recently, Candida glabrata. C. albicans is one of the major causative agents of death in immunocompromised individuals. Through various molecular biology tools, we work on identify and characterize important cell wall proteins that are involved in the pathogenicity of this organism through generating genetically engineered knock out strains and assessing their impact on virulence, filamentation, adhesion, biofilm formation and cell wall proteome architecture by MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry. In addition we are also in the process of genotyping drug resistant and drug sensitive Candida isolated from Lebanese hospital patients by targeted, or whole genome sequencing in an effort to understand the molecular basis of resistance, and eventually improve the treatment of candidiasis and patient well-being.

Furthermore and through collaborative efforts with the LAU Gilbert and Rose-Marie Chagoury School of Medicine, I am involved in a project that involves identifying and characterizing putative prions in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

In addition to my love of the byzantine world of fungal genetics, I enjoy traveling, skiing, and tennis.

SDGs Research Mapping

Dr. Roy Khakaf conducts research relevant to the following SDGs:

Selected Publications

  1. Deckert J, Khalaf RA, Hwang SM, and Zitomer RS. Characterization of the DNA binding and bending HMG domain of the yeast hypoxic repressor Rox1. Nucleic Acids Research 1999 ; 27(17): 3518-26.
  2. Khalaf RA, and Zitomer RS. The DNA binding protein Rfg1 is a repressor of filamentation in Candida albicans. Genetics 2001;157 (4):1503-12.
  3. Limijindaporn T, Khalaf RA, and Fonzi WA. Nitrogen metabolism and virulence of Candida albicans requires the GATA-type transcriptional activator encoded by GAT1. Mol Microbiol 2003;50 (3), 993-1004.
  4. Hayek P, Dib L, Yazbeck P, Beyrouthy B, Khalaf RA. Characterization of Hwp2, a Candida albicans GPI anchored cell wall protein necessary for invasive growth. Microbiological Research 2010 Mar 31;165(3):250-8
  5. Ramsook C,  Tan C, Garcia MC, Fung R, Soybelman G,   Henry R,  Litewka A, O’Meally S, Otoo H.N, Khalaf R.A, Dranginis A, Gaur N.K, Klotz S.A, Rauceo JM, Jue C.K, Lipke P.N. Yeast Cell Adhesion Molecules Have Functional Amyloid Forming Sequences. Eukaryotic Cell 2010 Mar;9(3):393-404.
  6. Younes S.S, Khalaf RA. The Candida albicans Hwp2p can complement the lack of filamentation of a Saccharomyces cerevisiae muc1 null strain. Microbiology. 2013 Jun;159(Pt 6):1160-4.
  7. Bitar I1, Khalaf RA1, Harastani H, Tokajian S. Identification, Typing, Antifungal Resistance Profile, and Biofilm Formation of Candida albicans Isolates from Lebanese Hospital Patients. 1 Both authors contributed equally to the work. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:931372. doi: 10.1155/2014/931372
  8. El Khoury P, Awad A, Wex B, Khalaf RA. Proteomic analysis of a Candida albicans pir32 null strain reveals proteins involved in adhesion, filamentation and virulence. PLoS One. 2018 Mar 19;13(3):e0194403. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0194403. eCollection 2018.
  9. Toutounji M, Tokajian ST, Khalaf RA. Genotypic and phenotypic characterization of Candida albicans Lebanese hospital isolates resistant and sensitive to capofungin. Fungal Genet Biol-2019 Feb 19. pii: S1087-1845(18)30205-6. doi: 10.1016/j.fgb.2019.02.008
  10. ChidiacM, Daher J*, Boeckstaens M, Poelvoorde P, Badran B, Marini AM, Khalaf RA*, Vanhamme L. Human Apolipoprotein L1 Interferes with Mitochondrial Function in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Molec. Med. Rep. In press *Corresponding authors.

Academic Degrees

  • PhD in Molecular Biology, 2001, State University of New York at Albany, USA
  • MS in Molecular Biology, 1997, State University of New York at Albany, USA
  • BS in Biology, 1993, Haigazian University, Lebanon