The fungal human pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans undergoes melanization in response to nutrient starvation and exposure to exogenous melanin precursors. Melanization protects the fungus against host defense mechanisms such as oxidative damage and other environmental stressors (e.g., heat/cold stress, antimicrobial compounds, ionizing radiation). Conversely, the melanization process generates cytotoxic intermediates, and melanized cells are potentially susceptible to overheating and to certain melanin-binding drugs. Despite the importance of melanin in C. neoformans biology, the signaling mechanisms regulating its synthesis are poorly understood. The recent report by D. Lee, E.-H. Jang, M. Lee, S.-W. Kim, et al. [mBio 10(5):e02267-19, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1128/mBio.02267-19] provides new insights into how C. neoformans regulates melanization. The authors identified a core melanin regulatory network consisting of transcription factors and kinases required for melanization under low-nutrient conditions. The redundant and epistatic connections of this melanin-regulating network demonstrate that C. neoformans melanization is complex and carefully regulated at multiple levels. Such complex regulation reflects the multiple functions of melanin in C. neoformans biology.
- Cryptococcus neoformans
- Melanin regulation
- Melanin-regulating core transcription factors
- Nutrient starvation response
ASJC Scopus subject areas