head shot of a young Asian man wearing glasses

Qian Shen

Assistant Professor of Biology

Qian Shen joins the Department of Biology as Assistant Professor. Dr. Shen grew up in Zhejiang, China, and received his bachelor’s degree from China Agricultural University. In 2011, he came to Mississippi State University to pursue a master’s degree. He received a Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 2019. He was an instructor at Ohio Wesleyan University and a postdoctoral researcher at Ohio State University before joining Rhodes College. He studies the deadly fungal pathogen Histoplasma that causes life-threatening infections to immunocompromised people (e.g., HIV patients). He has been invited to present his work at several national and international conferences. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, swimming, and playing board games.

Research Interests

Histoplasma capsulatum is a primary fungal pathogen that causes the respiratory tract infection (i.e., histoplasmosis) in both immune-competent and immune-compromised individuals. Among immune-compromised individuals (e.g., AIDS patients), infections can progress into disseminated histoplasmosis, resulting in life-threatening situations. Histoplasma lives in the soil as avirulent mycelium but transforms into pathogenic yeasts under human body temperature (i.e., 37°C). The switch from mycelium to yeast dictates Histoplasma virulence. Dr. Shen’s research seeks to understand the molecular mechanisms by which Histoplasma controls its morphological switch under elevated temperature.

Conidia produced by Histoplasma reside in the soil. When the conidia-containing soil is disturbed, the aerosolized conidia can be inhaled and reach the lower respiratory tract. In the lung environment, Histoplasma conidia germinate into pathogenic yeasts and reside within the phagocytes (e.g., macrophages). Unlike other opportunistic fungal pathogens such as Candida and Aspergillus, Histoplasma cannot be readily eliminated by macrophages which normally control microbial infections. Instead Histoplasma yeasts survive and proliferate within the phagosome compartment of macrophages which is a nutrient-depleted environment. Dr. Shen is interested in elucidating the molecular mechanisms employed by Histoplasma yeasts to acquire sufficient nutrients (e.g., carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur) to proliferate within macrophages.

Selected Publications

Qian Shen, Stephanie C. Ray, Heather M. Evans, George S. Deepe, Jr., and Chad A. Rappleye. Metabolism of gluconeogenic substrates by an intracellular fungal pathogen circumvents nutritional limitations within macrophages (2020) mBio 11(2), e02712-19.

Qian Shen, Matthew J. Beucler, Stephanie C. Ray, and Chad A. Rappleye. Macrophage activation by IFN-γ triggers restriction of phagosomal copper from intracellular pathogens (2018) PLoS Pathogens 14(11): e1007444 (Featured on Science Trends).

Qian Shen and Chad A. Rappleye. Differentiation of the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum into a pathogen of phagocytes (2017) Current Opinion in Microbiology 40, 1-7.

Andrew L. Garfoot, Qian Shen, Marcel Wüthrich, Bruce S. Klein, and Chad A. Rappleye. The Eng1 β-glucanase enhances Histoplasma virulence by reducing β-glucan exposure (2016) mBio 7(2), e01388-15.

Qian Shen, Kamlesh A. Soni, and Ramakrishna Nannapaneni (2015) Stability of sublethal acid stress adaptation and induced cross protection against lauric arginate in Listeria monocytogenes. International Journal of Food Microbiology 203: 49-54.

Qian Shen, Kamlesh A. Soni, and Ramakrishna Nannapaneni (2014) Influence of temperature on acid-stress adaptation in Listeria monocytogenes. Foodborne Pathogens and Disease 11: 43-49.


Ph.D., Ohio State University
M.S., Mississippi State University