Cryptococcus neoformans hyperfilamentous strain is hypervirulent in a murine model of cryptococcal meningoencephalitis.
Cryptococcus neoformans is a human fungal pathogen that causes lethal infections of the lung and central nervous system in immunocompromised individuals. C. neoformans has a defined bipolar sexual life cycle with a and α mating types. During the sexual cycle, which can occur between cells of opposite mating types (bisexual reproduction) or cells of one mating type (unisexual reproduction), a dimorphic transition from yeast to hyphal growth occurs. Hyphal development and meiosis generate abundant spores that, following inhalation, penetrate deep into the lung to enter the alveoli, germinate, and establish a pulmonary infection growing as budding yeast cells. Unisexual reproduction has been directly observed only in the Cryptococcus var. neoformans (serotype D) lineage under laboratory conditions. However, hyphal development has been previously associated with reduced virulence and the serotype D lineage exhibits limited pathogenicity in the murine model. In this study we show that the serotype D hyperfilamentous strain XL280α is hypervirulent in an animal model. It can grow inside the lung of the host, establish a pulmonary infection, and then disseminate to the brain to cause cryptococcal meningoencephalitis. Surprisingly, this hyperfilamentous strain triggers an immune response polarized towards Th2-type immunity, which is usually observed in the highly virulent sibling species C. gattii, responsible for the Pacific Northwest outbreak. These studies provide a technological advance that will facilitate analysis of virulence genes and attributes in C. neoformans var. neoformans, and reveal the virulence potential of serotype D as broader and more dynamic than previously appreciated.
Feretzaki, M; Hardison, SE; Wormley, FL; Heitman, J
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