Dr. Will Hintz

Dr. Will Hintz
Centre for Forest Biology, Biology

BSc (Carleton), MSc, PhD (Toronto)

Area of expertise

Fungal genetics and molecular biology


  • Fungal genetics and molecular biology

Our research is focused on fungal genetics, molecular biology and host-pathogen interactions in different systems. The fungal species responsible for Dutch elm disease, Ophiostoma ulmi/novo ulmi (Onu), has been a research interest for many years. This invasive species is a pathogen of the highly susceptible native American elm (Ulmus americana), an important urban forestry species in Canada. Pathogenicity is complex for Onu and a number of factors contribute to its success, including its exploitation of bark beetles as a vector to gain access to host tissues. A number of genes are implicated in pathogenicity and we have developed novel tools to study gene function in the form of RNAi transformed wild type strains. The expression of selected genes is suppressed by this approach and allows the phenotype of these mutant strains to be assessed, thus determining their potential role in host infection.

Studies of viruses in Onu have been an additional interest for this pathogen, as some mycoviruses will reduce the virulence of their fungal host. We have identified and described mitoviruses in Canadian isolates of Onu and these unique viruses persist in the host mitochondrial organelle. Our research has also studied the genetic modification of these viruses for their use as vectors to host engineered biocontrol constructs containing RNAi cassettes that will target specific pathogenicity genes in Onu. As a member of the Forest Biology Group, our laboratory has also been involved in collaborative research that studies the fungal endophyte microbiome of economically-important conifer species. The biotrophic status of endophytes can vary under different environmental conditions and this may contribute to the emergence of new pathogens in commercial tree species. The broad objective of current work is to improve our understanding of the role of this diverse fungal community in seed viability and tree health, in the context of a changing climate for BC forests.

In addition to fungal-plant interactions, we have conducted collaborative research into opportunistic pathogens of salmonid species; these include species of true fungi and Oomycetes of the genus Saprolegnia. These organisms are a persistent problem in both commercial aquaculture systems and enhancement facilities. They are difficult to control and contribute to significant losses, particularly when fish are pre-disposed to infection as a consequence of other disease organisms and/or environmental stressors. We have described the composition and incidence of Saprolegnia species in commercial aquaculture systems, developed molecular tools for their detection, and studied host response to pathogen exposure in a fish challenge system by use of salmonid microarray technologies. Current studies of opportunistic fungal pathogens of fish are describing the primary causal agents of disease, their incidence among age classes of commercially-raised salmon, and the mechanisms of disease development in controlled laboratory trials.

Research group

Robert LePage (PhD, Civil Engineering), Dr. Terrie Finston (Research Associate), Celeste Ramsey (Undergrad), Rachel Witt (Undergrad), Rebecca Runions (Undergrad), Spencer Quayle (Undergrad), and Hannah Bentsen (Undergrad)


YearJournal titleTitleAuthors
2022BotanyFungal endophytes affecting the health and recovery of Long’s Braya (Braya longii) and Fernald’s Braya (Braya fernaldii), endangered endemic species of Newfoundland, Canadade la Bastide P.Y., Finston T., Hermanutz L., and Hintz W.E.
2022Journal of FungiComparative Analysis of Transcriptomes of Ophiostoma novo-ulmi ssp. americana Colonizing Resistant or Sensitive Genotypes of American ElmNigg M., de Oliveira T.C., Sarmiento-Villamil J.L., de la Bastide P.Y., Hintz W.E., Sherif S.M., Bernier L., and Saxena P.K.
2019BotanyFungal colonizers and seed loss in lodgepole pine orchards of British Columbiade la Bastide PY, LeBlanc J, Kong L, Finston T, May EM, Reich R, Hintz WE, von Aderkas P
2018ScienceRecent Asian origin of chytrid fungi causing global amphibian declinesO'Hanlon SJ, Rieux A, Farrer RA, Rosa GM, Waldman B, Bataille A, Kosch TA, Murray KA, Brankovics B, Fumagalli M, Martin MD, Wales N, Alvarado-Rybak M, Bates KA, Berger L, Böll S, Brookes L, Clare F, Courtois EA, Cunningham AA, Doherty-Bone TM, Ghosh P, Gower DJ, Hintz WE, Höglund J, Jenkinson TS, Lin CF, Laurila A, Loyau A, Martel A, Meurling S, Miaud C, Minting P, Pasmans F, Schmeller DS, Schmidt BR, Shelton JMG, Skerratt LF, Smith F, Soto-Azat C, Spagnoletti M, Tessa G, Toledo LF, Valenzuela-Sánchez A, Verster R, Vörös J, Webb RJ, Wierzbicki C, Wombwell E, Zamudio KR, Aanensen DM, James TY, Gilbert MTP, Weldon C, Bosch J, Balloux F, Garner TWJ, and Fisher MC
2018Fungal BiologyInterfertility and genetic variability among European and North American isolates of the basidiomycete fungus Chondrostereum purpureumHamberg, L, PY de la Bastide, W Hintz, SF Shamoun, M Brandtberg, and J Hantula
2018Diseases of Aquatic OrganismsAssessment of the intraspecific variability of Saprolegnia parasitica populations in aquaculture facilities of British Columbia.de la Bastide, PY, C Naumann, and WE Hintz
2016Aquaculture Association of Canada BulletinSpecies composition and diversity of the genus Saprolegnia in fin fish aquaculture systems. de la Bastide, PY, WL Leung, C Naumann, and WE Hintz.
2015Fungal BiologySpecies composition of the genus Saprolegnia in fin fish aquaculture environments, as determined by nucleotide sequence analysis of the nuclear rDNA ITS regions.de la Bastide, PY, WL Leung, and WE Hintz
2014Tropical Life Sciences ResearchMeasuring biodiversity in the mangroves of Langkawa and Merbok: Does gastropod biodiversity correlate with tree biodiversity?Hookham B, Aileen Tan SH, Dayrat B, and Hintz W
2014Herpetological ReviewA multi-year surveillance for the pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) potentially infecting amphibians of Peninsular Malaysia. LeBlanc J, Faruk A, Dort E, Govindarajulu P, Quah E, Muin MA, and Hintz W
2014Tropical Life Sciences ResearchNew approaches for controlling Saprolegnia parasitica, the causal agent of a devastating fish disease.Earle G, and Hintz W
2013Physiological and Molecular Plant PathologyRegulated gene silencing in the fungal pathogen Ophiostoma novo-ulmi.Carneiro JS, de la Bastide PY, and Hintz WE
2013Journal of Biomolecular TechniquesComparison of multiple genome sequencing centers and analysis of the Dutch elm disease fungus genome using the Roche/454 GS-FLX Titanium System.Forgetta V, Leveque G, Dias J, Grove D, Lyons Jr R, Genik S, Wright C, Singh S, Peterson N, Zianni M, Kieleczawa, J, Hintz W, Jacobi V, Bernier L, Levesque R, and Dewar K
2013Virology JournalTwo novel mitoviruses from a Canadian isolate of the Dutch elm pathogen Ophiostoma novo-ulmiHintz WE, Carneiro JS, Kassatenko I, Varga A, and James