Immune modulation mediated by cryptococcal laccase promotes pulmonary growth and brain dissemination of virulent Cryptococcus neoformans in mice

PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47853. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047853. Epub 2012 Oct 22.


C. neoformans is a leading cause of fatal mycosis linked to CNS dissemination. Laccase, encoded by the LAC1 gene, is an important virulence factor implicated in brain dissemination yet little is known about the mechanism(s) accounting for this observation. Here, we investigated whether the presence or absence of laccase altered the local immune response in the lungs by comparing infections with the highly virulent strain, H99 (which expresses laccase) and mutant strain of H99 deficient in laccase (lac1Δ) in a mouse model of pulmonary infection. We found that LAC1 gene deletion decreased the pulmonary fungal burden and abolished CNS dissemination at weeks 2 and 3. Furthermore, LAC1 deletion lead to: 1) diminished pulmonary eosinophilia; 2) increased accumulation of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells; 3) increased Th1 and Th17 cytokines yet decreased Th2 cytokines; and 4) lung macrophage shifting of the lung macrophage phenotype from M2- towards M1-type activation. Next, we used adoptively transferred CD4+ T cells isolated from pulmonary lymph nodes of mice infected with either lac1Δ or H99 to evaluate the role of laccase-induced immunomodulation on CNS dissemination. We found that in comparison to PBS treated mice, adoptively transferred CD4+ T cells isolated from lac1Δ-infected mice decreased CNS dissemination, while those isolated from H99-infected mice increased CNS dissemination. Collectively, our findings reveal that immune modulation away from Th1/Th17 responses and towards Th2 responses represents a novel mechanism through which laccase can contribute to cryptococcal virulence. Furthermore, our data support the hypothesis that laccase-induced changes in polarization of CD4+ T cells contribute to CNS dissemination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adoptive Transfer
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Brain / microbiology
  • Cryptococcosis / enzymology
  • Cryptococcosis / physiopathology*
  • Cryptococcus neoformans / enzymology*
  • Cryptococcus neoformans / immunology*
  • Cryptococcus neoformans / pathogenicity
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Eosinophils
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Deletion
  • Immunomodulation / immunology*
  • Laccase / genetics
  • Laccase / metabolism*
  • Lung / immunology*
  • Lung / microbiology
  • Mice
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Species Specificity
  • Virulence
  • Virulence Factors / metabolism*


  • Cytokines
  • Virulence Factors
  • Laccase