Chris Todd Hittinger

Credentials: Genetics

Position title: Professor


Website: Hittinger Lab

4129 Wisconsin Energy Institute


PhD (2007) UW Madison; Postdoc Washington University St. Louis and UC Denver (2007-2011)

Representative Awards

  • 2019 International Commission on Yeasts (USA Commissioner)
  • 2019 H. I. Romnes Faculty Fellow (OVCRGE/WARF)
  • 2017 Species epithet of Kurtzmaniella hittingeri Lopes et al.
  • 2017 Vilas Faculty Early Career Investigator (Vilas Trust Estate)
  • 2017 40 Under 40 Honoree (Midwest Energy News)
  • 2015 Alfred Toepfer Faculty Fellow (Alexander von Humboldt Foundation)
  • 2014 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences (Pew Charitable Trusts)


Carbon metabolism is the energy superhighway of life. We study the diversity and evolution of yeast carbon metabolism, which is controlled by a complex system of interacting genes that respond to different carbon sources and determine the organism’s energy-use strategy. Some yeasts readily ferment sugars into ethanol, even in the presence of oxygen, but most organisms (including many yeast species) prefer respiration. The biofuel industry currently exploits the highly refined trait of aerobic fermentation or Crabtree-Warburg Effect in Saccharomyces cerevisiae to produce ethanol. However, yeast strains currently in use are not able to convert some common sugars, such as xylose, into ethanol efficiently enough to compete in the energy market. Other yeast species can metabolize xylose and make precursors for advanced biofuels, including oils, but they are more challenging to engineer and less thoroughly characterized. By understanding how evolution has sculpted and rewired yeast metabolic gene networks to meet their different ecological needs, we can better determine how to engineer complex biological systems to meet our energy needs.

Representative Publications  (Google Scholar | PUBMED)

Peris D, Alexander WG, Fisher KJ, Moriarty RV, Basuino MG, Ubbelohde EJ, Wrobel RL, Hittinger CT. Synthetic hybrids of six yeast species. Nat Commun. 2020 Apr 29;11(1):2085.

Kominek J&, Doering DT&, Opulente DA, Shen XX, Zhou X, DeVirgilio J, Hulfachor AB, Groenewald M, Mcgee MA, Karlen SD, Kurtzman CP, Rokas A, Hittinger CT@. 2019. Eukaryotic acquisition of a bacterial operon. Cell 176: 1356-66.

Baker EP, Peris D, Moriarty RV, Li XC, Fay JC, Hittinger CT@. 2019. Mitochondrial DNA and temperature tolerance in lager yeasts. Sci Adv 5: eaav1869.

Shen XX&, Opulente DA&, Kominek J&, Zhou X&, Steenwyk JL, Buh KV, Haase MAB, Wisecaver JH, Wang M, Doering DT, Boudouris JT, Schneider RM, Langdon QK, Ohkuma M, Endoh R, Takashima M, Manabe RI, Čadež N, Libkind D, Rosa CA, DeVirgilio J, Hulfachor AB, Groenewald M, Kurtzman CP, Hittinger CT@, Rokas A@. 2018. Tempo and mode of genome evolution in the budding yeast subphylum. Cell 175: 1533-45.

Krause DJ, Kominek J, Opulente DA, Shen XX, Zhou X, Langdon QK, DeVirgilio J, Hulfachor AB, Kurtzman CP, Rokas A, Hittinger CT@. 2018. Functional and evolutionary characterization of a secondary metabolite gene cluster in budding yeasts. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 115: 11030-5.