The key to survival and virulence for a fungal pathogen is autophagy

February 8, 2008

Autophagy is a process whereby cells recycle material during stress situations, such as when nutrients are scarce. Some cells also use this process as an immune defense mechanism to eliminate pathogens. However, new data, generated in mice by Peter Williamson and colleagues, at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has identified autophagy as a new virulence-associated trait and survival mechanism for Cryptococcus neoformans — a fungal pathogen that commonly infects immunocompromised individuals, such as those with HIV.

In the study, a mutant form of C. neoformans that lacked the protein Vps34 PI3K (known as the vps34D mutant) was found to be less able to form autophagy-related 8–labeled (Atg8-labeled) vesicles than normal C. neoformans.

Furthermore, the vps34D mutant was less virulent in mice than normal C. neoformans. Consistent with a crucial role for autophagy in determining the extent of the disease caused by infection with C. neoformans, a strain of C. neoformans in which Atg8 expression was knocked down showed reduced virulence in mice. The authors therefore suggested that more detailed understanding of this virulence pathway might lead to new drugs for treating individuals who become infected with C. neoformans.

Source: Journal of Clinical Investigation

Related Stories

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.