Cryptococcus neoformans penetration into the central nervous system (CNS) requires traversal of the blood-brain barrier that is composed of a single layer of human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMEC), but the underlying mechanisms of C. neoformans traversal remain incompletely understood. C. neoformans transcytosis of HBMEC monolayer involves rearrangements of the host cell actin cytoskeleton and small GTP-binding Rho family proteins such as Rac1 are shown to regulate host cell actin cytoskeleton. We, therefore, examined whether C. neoformans traversal of the blood-brain barrier involves host Rac1. While the levels of activated Rac1 (GTP-Rac1) in HBMEC increased significantly upon incubation with C. neoformans strains, pharmacological inhibition and down-modulation of Rac1 significantly decreased C. neoformans transcytosis of HBMEC monolayer. Also, Rac1 inhibition was efficient in preventing C. neoformans penetration into the brain. In addition, C. neoformans phospholipase B1 (Plb1) was shown to contribute to activating host cell Rac1, andSTAT3 was observed to associate with GTP-Rac1 in HBMEC that were incubated with C. neoformans strain but not with its Δplb1 mutant. These findings demonstrate for the first time that C. neoformans Plb1 aids fungal traversal across the blood-brain barrier by activating host cell Rac1 and its association with STAT3, and suggest that pharmacological intervention of host-microbial interaction contributing to traversal of the blood-brain barrier may prevent C. neoformans penetration into the brain.
"Other processes have also been described in C. neoformans, such as instances of direct interference with host molecules. The fungal phosphatase Plb1 interacts with host cytoskeletal protein Rac1 facilitating brain invasion (Maruvada et al., 2012; see Fig. 1.3). Other fungal proteins have been described to be involved for capsule-independent antiphagocytic processes. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cryptococcus neoformans is a fungal pathogen that causes almost half a million deaths each year. It is believed that most humans are infected with C. neoformans, possibly in a form that survives through latency in the lung and can reactivate to cause disease if the host becomes immunosuppressed. C. neoformans has a remarkably sophisticated intracellular survival capacities yet it is a free-living fungus with no requirement for mammalian virulence whatsoever. In this review, we discuss the tools that C. neoformans possesses to achieve survival, latency and virulence within its host. Some of these tools are mechanisms to withstand starvation and others aim to protect against microbicidal molecules produced by the immune system. Furthermore, we discuss how these tools were acquired through evolutionary pressures and perhaps accidental stochastic events, all of which combined to produce an organism with an unusual and unique intracellular pathogenic strategy.
"For human pathogens, adaptation to the environment of the host can have important consequences for virulence and pathogenicity , and the existence of duplicated genes has been shown to facilitate this adaptation in C. neoformans (Ballou et al., 2010; Okagaki et al., 2011). It was recently demonstrated that C. neoformans is able to modulate the behavior of human brain microvascular epithelial cells (HBMECs) via phospholipase B1-mediated re-arrangement of the host actin cytoskeleton, which in turn is regulated by human Rac1 (Chang et al., 2004; Maruvada et al., 2012). This modulation facilitates the uptake of C. neoformans cells and transport across the blood/brain barrier in mice. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A genome wide analysis of the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans var. grubii has revealed a number of duplications of highly conserved genes involved in morphogenesis. Previously, we reported that duplicate Cdc42 paralogs provide C. neoformans with niche-specific responses to environmental stresses: Cdc42 is required for thermotolerance, while Cdc420 supports the formation of titan cells. The related Rho-GTPase Rac1 has been shown in C. neoformans var. neoformans to play a major role in filamentation and to share Cdc42/Cdc420 binding partners. Here we report the characterization of a second Rac paralog in C. neoformans, Rac2, and describe its overlapping function with the previously described CnRac, Rac1. Further, we demonstrate that the Rac paralogs play a primary role in polarized growth via the organization of reactive oxygen species and play only a minor role in the organization of actin. Finally, we provide preliminary evidence that pharmacological inhibitors of Rac activity and actin stability have synergistic activity.
"One great advantage is that the timing of interactions (adhesion and transmigration ) of C. neoformans with HBMEC can be precisely controlled. More importantly, the in vitro reductionist model has great power to identify molecular mechanisms that govern the invasion of yeast cells into HBMEC by drawing on a wealth of genetic, immunological and pharmacologic approaches (Jong et al., 2008a,b; Huang et al., 2011; Maruvada et al., 2012). In vitro models are amenable to visualizing physiological processes at high spatial resolution, and are likely to provide important information about the morphologic changes of the organism, the specific site of interaction, and the dynamic morphologic changes of the endothelium. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Recent technical advances have afforded valuable new insights into the pathogenesis of fungal infections in the central nervous system (CNS), which continue to cause devastating complications, particularly in immunocompromised individuals. To cause CNS mycosis, organisms such as Cryptococcus neoformans become blood borne and progress through a series of pathogenic checkpoints that culminate in fungal replication in the brain. Critical steps include fungal arrest in the vasculature of the brain, interaction and signalling of the fungal and endothelial cells leading to transmigration with subsequent parenchymal invasion and fungal replication in the CNS. Previous studies that made use of in vitro and ex vivo approaches contributed greatly to our understanding of brain invasion by fungi. However, the knowledge gained from previous studies relied on in vitro models that did not account for vascular haemodynamics. For this reason, more refined approaches that model blood flow and vascular anatomy are required, andultimately studying fungal invasion and dissemination in vivo. Indeed, in vivo imaging (also known as intravital imaging) has emerged as a valuable technique to probe host-pathogen interactions. In this review, with a focus on C. neoformans, we will provide an overview of the applications of the prior techniques and recent advances, their strengths and limitations in characterizing the migration of fungi into the brain, and unanswered questions that may provide new directions for research.
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