The enigmatic role of fungal annexins: The case of Cryptococcus neoformans

Maria Maryam, Man Shun Fu, Alexandre Alanio, Emma Camacho, Diego S. Goncalves, Eden E. Faneuff, Nina T. Grossman, Arturo Casadevall, Carolina Coelho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Annexins are multifunctional proteins that bind to phospholipid membranes in a calcium-dependent manner. Annexins play a myriad of critical and well-characterized roles in mammals, ranging from membrane repair to vesicular secretion. The role of annexins in the kingdoms of bacteria, protozoa and fungi have been largely overlooked. The fact that there is no known homologue of annexins in the model organism may contribute to this gap in knowledge. However, annexins are found in most medically important fungal pathogens, with the notable exception of Candida albicans. In this study we evaluated the function of the one annexin gene in Cryptococcus neoformans, a causative agent of cryptococcosis. This gene CNAG_02415, is annotated in the C. neoformans genome as a target of calcineurin through its transcription factor Crz1, and we propose to update its name to cryptococcal annexin, AnnexinC1. C. neoformans strains deleted for AnnexinC1 revealed no difference in survival after exposure to various chemical stressor relative the wild type, as well as no major alteration in virulence or mating. The only alteration observed in strains deleted for AnnexinC1 was a small increase in the titan cells formation in vitro. The preservation of annexins in many different fungal species suggests an important function, and therefore the lack of a strong phenotype for annexin-deficient C. neoformans is suggestive of either redundant genes that can compensate for the absence of AnnexinC1 function or novel functions not revealed by standard assays of cell function and pathogenicity. Importance Cryptococcus neoformans is the deadliest human fungal pathogen, causing almost 200,000 deaths each year. Treatment of this lethal infection is lengthy, and in some patients therapy is not curative and patients require lifelong therapy. Fundamental research in this yeast is needed so that we can understand mechanisms of infection and disease and ultimately devise better therapies. In this work we investigated a fungal representative of the annexin family of proteins, specifically in the context of virulence and mating. We find that the cryptococcal annexin does not seem to be involved in virulence or mating but affects generation of titan cells, enlarged yeast cells that are detected in the lungs of mammalian hosts. Our data provides new knowledge in an unexplored area of fungal biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Jan 31 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)

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