Role of an expanded inositol transporter repertoire in Cryptococcus neoformans sexual reproduction and virulence

Chaoyang Xue, Tongbao Liu, Lydia Chen, Wenjun Li, Iris Liu, James W. Kronstad, Andreas Seyfang, Joseph Heitman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii are globally distributed human fungal pathogens and the leading causes of fungal meningitis. Recent studies reveal that myo-inositol is an important factor for fungal sexual reproduction. That C. neoformans can utilize myo-inositol as a sole carbon source and the existence of abundant inositol in the human central nervous system suggest that inositol is important for Cryptococcus development and virulence. In accord with this central importance of inositol, an expanded myo-inositol transporter (ITR) gene family has been identified in Cryptococcus. This gene family contains two phylogenetically distinct groups, with a total of 10 or more members in C. neoformans and at least six members in the sibling species C. gattii. These inositol transporter genes are differentially expressed under inositol-inducing conditions based on quantitative real-time PCR analyses. Expression of ITR genes in a Saccharomyces cerevisiae itr1 itr2 mutant lacking inositol transport can complement the slow-growth phenotype of this strain, confirming that ITR genes are bona fide inositol transporters. Gene mutagenesis studies reveal that the Itr1 and Itr1A transporters are important for myo-inositol stimulation of mating and that functional redundancies among the myo-inositol transporters likely exist. Deletion of the inositol 1-phosphate synthase gene INO1 in an itr1 or itr1a mutant background compromised virulence in a murine inhalation model, indicating the importance of inositol sensing and acquisition for fungal infectivity. Our study provides a platform for further understanding the roles of inositol in fungal physiology and virulence. IMPORTANCE: Cryptococcus neoformans is an AIDS-associated human fungal pathogen that causes over 1 million cases of meningitis annually and is the leading cause of fungal meningitis in immunosuppressed patients. The initial cryptococcal infection is caused predominantly via inhalation of sexual spores or desiccated yeast cells from the environment. How this fungus completes its sexual cycle and produces infectious spores in nature and why it frequently infects the central nervous system to cause fatal meningitis are critical questions that remain to be understood. In this study, we demonstrate that inositol acquisition is important not only for fungal sexual reproduction but also for fungal virulence. We identified an expanded inositol transporter gene family that contains over 10 members, important for both fungal sexual reproduction and virulence. Our work contributes to our understanding of how fungi respond to the environmental inositol availability and its impact on sexual reproduction and virulence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00084-10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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