Brain inositol is a novel stimulator for promoting Cryptococcus penetration of the blood-brain barrier

PLoS Pathog. 2013;9(4):e1003247. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1003247. Epub 2013 Apr 4.


Cryptococcus neoformans is the most common cause of fungal meningitis, with high mortality and morbidity. The reason for the frequent occurrence of Cryptococcus infection in the central nervous system (CNS) is poorly understood. The facts that human and animal brains contain abundant inositol and that Cryptococcus has a sophisticated system for the acquisition of inositol from the environment suggests that host inositol utilization may contribute to the development of cryptococcal meningitis. In this study, we found that inositol plays an important role in Cryptococcus traversal across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) both in an in vitro human BBB model and in in vivo animal models. The capacity of inositol to stimulate BBB crossing was dependent upon fungal inositol transporters, indicated by a 70% reduction in transmigration efficiency in mutant strains lacking two major inositol transporters, Itr1a and Itr3c. Upregulation of genes involved in the inositol catabolic pathway was evident in a microarray analysis following inositol treatment. In addition, inositol increased the production of hyaluronic acid in Cryptococcus cells, which is a ligand known to binding host CD44 receptor for their invasion. These studies suggest an inositol-dependent Cryptococcus traversal of the BBB, and support our hypothesis that utilization of host-derived inositol by Cryptococcus contributes to CNS infection.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / microbiology*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / microbiology*
  • Central Nervous System Infections / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System Infections / microbiology
  • Cryptococcosis / metabolism
  • Cryptococcosis / microbiology*
  • Cryptococcus neoformans / metabolism
  • Cryptococcus neoformans / pathogenicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / metabolism
  • Hyaluronic Acid / biosynthesis
  • Hyaluronic Acid / metabolism
  • Inositol / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Meningitis, Cryptococcal / metabolism*
  • Meningitis, Cryptococcal / microbiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred A
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Rabbits
  • Transendothelial and Transepithelial Migration


  • Hyaluronan Receptors
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins
  • Inositol
  • Hyaluronic Acid