This application investigates a general problem in virulence of how pathogenic microbes adapt to and/or escape host defenses. Most infections are characterized by a complex relationship between the host and the pathogen referred to as pathoadaptation. The system under study is based on Cryptococcus neoformans, a human pathogenic fungus that is a major cause of mortality and morbidity in immunocompromised patients. C. neoformans undergoes phenotypic switching from a smooth (SM) to a mucoid (MC) colony switch variant during chronic infection. Prior work has associated this switch with virulence including high intracranial pressure and the ability to persist in the host. We have determined that the switch of the SM parent to the hypervirulent MC variant is associated with down-regulation of several genes, among them ALL1 and ALL2. These genes encode for highly homologous cytosolic proteins of unknown function. Deletion mutants of these proteins, namely all1(?and all2(, mimic the hypervirulent phenotype of the MC variant. Especially the all1(?mutant has a striking phenotype as it is more virulent than the SM parent in pulmonary infection and results in augmented intracranial pressure in a CNS infection model. Most interestingly, the all1(?exhibits enhanced stress resistance, manifests a prolonged life span and excretes an altered polysaccharide. Since capsular polysaccharide is implicated in high intracranial pressure we now have a mechanistic link between ALL1 and the changes in virulence. The all1(?exhibits impaired capsule induction, sheds a qualitative different polysaccharide and is more resistant to stress from oxygen radical. Here we propose to examine the function of ALL1. Our proposal is divided in three aims: I.) To investigate characteristics of the polysaccharide capsule in the all1(?mutant ii.) To explore the functional relationships of ALL1 iii.) To elucidate the regulatory pathway of ALL1.
This grant proposal studies how a fungus that causes chronic infection in patients changes. Cryptococcus neoformans can change from a smooth a mucoid colony type. We are interested to study two genes that change when the fungus switches. We will investigate the function of these genes how they are regulated and how they specifically make the fungus more virulent.
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