Cryptococcus neoformans transcriptional regulation of the host-pathogen interface
<italic>Cryptococcus neoformans </italic>is a human fungal pathogen that is also ubiquitous in the environment. To cause disease inside a human host, <italic>C. neoformans</italic> must be able to sense and respond to a multitude of stresses. One of the major responses to the host is the induction of a polysaccharide capsule, which allows the fungus to resist damage and evade the host immune response. This capsule is regulated by a number of signal transduction cascades, but a major contributor is the conserved cAMP/PKA pathway.
Using genetic and molecular biology techniques, I identified Gcn5 and Rim101 as key transcriptional regulators of capsule within the host. I determined that <italic>C. neoformans</italic> Rim101 is activated by a combination of the canonical pH sensing pathway and the cAMP/PKA pathway. This novel connection potentially gives the pathogen greater flexibility in responding to environmental stimuli, thus allowing for a greater capacity for disease.
I determined that the Rim101 transcription factor regulates cell wall remodeling in the context of the host by deep mRNA sequencing, electron microscopy, and biochemical assays. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation, I confirmed that these cell wall changes are under direct control of Rim101. I then confirmed the importance of cell wall changes in the host by nanoString profiling of fungal RNA in the context of a murine lung infection. I also examined the lungs of infected mice for cytokine and immune cell infiltrate and determined that <italic>C. neoformans</italic> cell wall changes are important in avoiding triggering an aberrant host response. I hypothesize that this cell wall remodeling via Rim101 activation is required for full capsule attachment and for masking immunogenic molecules from the host immune system.
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