Cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunits have divergent roles in virulence factor production in two varieties of the fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans.
Our earlier findings established that cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase functions in a signaling cascade that regulates mating and virulence of Cryptococcus neoformans var. grubii (serotype A). Mutants lacking the serotype A protein kinase A (PKA) catalytic subunit Pka1 are unable to mate, fail to produce melanin or capsule, and are avirulent in animal models, whereas mutants lacking the PKA regulatory subunit Pkr1 overproduce capsule and are hypervirulent. Because other mutations have been observed to confer different phenotypes in two diverged varieties of C. neoformans (grubii variety [serotype A] and neoformans variety [serotype D]), we analyzed the functions of the PKA genes in the serotype D neoformans variety. Surprisingly, the Pka1 catalytic subunit was not required for mating, haploid fruiting, or melanin or capsule production of serotype D strains. Here we identify a second PKA catalytic subunit gene, PKA2, that is present in both serotype A and D strains of C. neoformans. The divergent Pka2 catalytic subunit was found to regulate mating, haploid fruiting, and virulence factor production in serotype D strains. In contrast, Pka2 has no role in mating, melanin production, or capsule formation in serotype A strains. Our studies illustrate how different components of signaling pathways can be co-opted and functionally specialized during the evolution of related but distinct varieties or subspecies of a human fungal pathogen.
Hicks, JK; D'Souza, CA; Cox, GM; Heitman, J
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