Amt2 permease is required to induce ammonium-responsive invasive growth and mating in Cryptococcus neoformans.
The conserved AmtB/Mep/Rh family of proteins mediate the transport of ammonium across cellular membranes in a wide range of organisms. Certain fungal members of this group are required to initiate filamentous growth. We have investigated the functions of two members of the AmtB/Mep/Rh family from the pathogenic basidiomycete Cryptococcus neoformans. Amt1 and Amt2 are low- and high-affinity ammonium permeases, respectively, and a mutant lacking both permeases is unable to grow under ammonium-limiting conditions. AMT2 is transcriptionally induced in response to nitrogen limitation, whereas AMT1 is constitutively expressed. Single and double amt mutants exhibit wild-type virulence in two models of cryptococcosis. Consistent with this, the formation of two C. neoformans virulence factors, cell wall melanin and the extracellular polysaccharide capsule, is not impaired in cells lacking either or both of the Amt1 and Amt2 permeases. Amt2 is, however, required for the initiation of invasive growth of haploid cells under low-nitrogen conditions and for the mating of wild-type cells under the same conditions. We propose that Amt2 may be a new fungal ammonium sensor and an element of the signaling cascades that govern the mating of C. neoformans in response to environmental nutritional cues.
Rutherford, JC; Lin, X; Nielsen, K; Heitman, J
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