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Cell. 2008 Oct 3;135(1):174-88. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2008.07.046.

Systematic genetic analysis of virulence in the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco, 600 16th St., GH-N372C, San Francisco, CA 94158, USA.


The fungus Cryptococcus neoformans is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity among HIV-infected individuals. We utilized the completed genome sequence and optimized methods for homologous DNA replacement using high-velocity particle bombardment to engineer 1201 gene knockout mutants. We screened this resource in vivo for proliferation in murine lung tissue and in vitro for three well-recognized virulence attributes-polysaccharide capsule formation, melanization, and growth at body temperature. We identified dozens of previously uncharacterized genes that affect these known attributes as well as 40 infectivity mutants without obvious defects in these traits. The latter mutants affect predicted regulatory factors, secreted proteins, and immune-related factors, and represent powerful tools for elucidating novel virulence mechanisms. In particular, we describe a GATA family transcription factor that inhibits phagocytosis by murine macrophages independently of the capsule, indicating a previously unknown mechanism of innate immune modulation.

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