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Eukaryot Cell. 2005 Aug;4(8):1420-33.

Cryptococcus neoformans gene expression during murine macrophage infection.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


The fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans survives phagocytosis by macrophages and proliferates within, ultimately establishing latent infection as a facultative intracellular pathogen that can escape macrophage control to cause disseminated disease. This process is hypothesized to be important for C. neoformans pathogenesis; however, it is poorly understood how C. neoformans adapts to and overcomes the hostile intracellular environment of the macrophage. Using DNA microarray technology, we have investigated the transcriptional response of C. neoformans to phagocytosis by murine macrophages. The expression profiles of several genes were verified using quantitative reverse transcription-PCR and a green fluorescent protein reporter strain. Multiple membrane transporters for hexoses, amino acids, and iron were up-regulated, as well as genes involved in responses to oxidative stress. Genes involved in autophagy, peroxisome function, and lipid metabolism were also induced. Interestingly, almost the entire mating type locus displayed increased expression 24 h after internalization, suggesting an intrinsic connection between infection and the MAT locus. Genes in the Gpa1-cyclic AMP-protein kinase A pathway were also up-regulated. Both gpa1 and pka1 mutants were found to be compromised in macrophage infection, confirming the important role of this virulence pathway. A large proportion of the repressed genes are involved in ribosome-related functions, rRNA processing, and translation initiation/elongation, implicating a reduction in translation as a central response to phagocytosis. In summary, this gene expression profile allows us to interpret the adaptation of C. neoformans to the intracellular infection process and informs the search for genes encoding novel virulence attributes.

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