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Mol Microbiol. 2012 Aug;85(4):700-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2012.08134.x. Epub 2012 Jul 13.

Regulated expression of cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase A reveals an influence on cell size and the secretion of virulence factors in Cryptococcus neoformans.

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The Michael Smith Laboratories, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z4.


Cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase A (PKA) regulates elaboration of the virulence factors melanin and polysaccharide capsule in Cryptococcus neoformans. A mutation in PKA1 encoding the catalytic subunit is known to reduce virulence in mice while a defect in PKR1 encoding the regulatory subunit enhances disease. Here, we constructed strains with galactose-inducible and glucose-repressible versions of PKA1 and PKR1 by inserting the GAL7 promoter upstream of the genes. As expected, no capsule was found in dextrose-containing media for the P(GAL7):PKA1 strain, whereas a large capsule was formed on cells grown in galactose. Along with capsule thickness, high PKA activity also influenced cell size, ploidy and vacuole enlargement, as observed in previous reports of giant/titan cell formation. We employed the regulated strains to test the hypothesis that PKA influences secretion and found that elevated PKA expression positively regulates extracellular protease activity and negatively regulates urease secretion. Furthermore, proper PKA regulation and activity were required for wild-type levels of melanization and laccase activity, as well as correct localization of the enzyme. The latter phenotype is consistent with the discovery that PKA regulates the organization of intracellular membrane compartments. Overall, these results indicate that PKA influences secretion pathways directly related to virulence factor elaboration.

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