The basidiomycetous yeast Cryptococcus neoformans is a human pathogen. Several phenotypes of this organism are defined as virulence traits including the polysaccharide capsule, melanin, and the ability to grow at 37 degreesC. The signaling pathways regulating the expression of these phenotypes and other important cellular processes are being defined on a molecular level. For example, the highly conserved signaling molecule calcineurin regulates high temperature growth in C. neoformans. A cryptococcal homolog of Saccharomyces cerevisiae STE12, the gene for a transcriptional regulator activated by the MAP kinase cascade, has also been identified. Additionally, the C. neoformans Galpha protein GPA1 and cAMP regulate mating, melanin production, encapsulation, and pathogenicity. This fungus is an excellent model to further dissect virulence-associated signaling pathways. The conserved role of Galpha proteins and cAMP-associated signaling pathways in fungal differentiation and pathogenicity is also reviewed.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press.