Infectious meningitis and encephalitis is caused by invasion of circulating pathogens into the brain. It is unknown how the circulating pathogens dynamically interact with brain endothelium under shear stress, leading to invasion into the brain. Here, using intravital microscopy, we have shown that Cryptococcus neoformans, a yeast pathogen that causes meningoencephalitis, stops suddenly in mouse brain capillaries of a similar or smaller diameter than the organism, in the same manner and with the same kinetics as polystyrene microspheres, without rolling and tethering to the endothelial surface. Trapping of the yeast pathogen in the mouse brain was not affected by viability or known virulence factors. After stopping in the brain, C. neoformans was seen to cross the capillary wall in real time. In contrast to trapping, viability, but not replication, was essential for the organism to cross the brain microvasculature. Using a knockout strain of C. neoformans, we demonstrated that transmigration into the mouse brain is urease dependent. To determine whether this could be amenable to therapy, we used the urease inhibitor flurofamide. Flurofamide ameliorated infection of the mouse brain by reducing transmigration into the brain. Together, these results suggest that C. neoformans is mechanically trapped in the brain capillary, which may not be amenable to pharmacotherapy, but actively transmigrates to the brain parenchyma with contributions from urease, suggesting that a therapeutic strategy aimed at inhibiting this enzyme could help prevent meningitis and encephalitis caused by C. neoformans infection.
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