Cryptococcus neoformans is the leading cause of fungal meningitis in immuno comprised populations. Although extensive studies have been conducted on signal transduction pathways important for fungal sexual reproduction and virulence, how fungal virulence is regulated during infection is still not understood. In this study, we identified the F-box protein Fbp1, which contains a putative F-box domain and 12 leucine-rich repeats (LRR). Although fbp1 mutants showed normal growth and produced normal major virulence factors, such as melanin and capsule, Fbp1 was found to be essential for fungal virulence, as fbp1 mutants were avirulent in a murine systemic-infection model. Fbp1 is also important for fungal sexual reproduction. Basidiospore production was blocked in bilateral mating between fbp1 mutants, even though normal dikaryotic hyphae were observed during mating. In vitro assays of stress responses revealed that fbp1 mutants are hypersensitive to SDS, but not calcofluor white (CFW) or Congo red, indicating that Fbp1 may regulate cell membrane integrity. Fbp1 physically interacts with Skp1 homologues in both Saccharomyces cerevisiae and C. neoformans via its F-box domain, suggesting it may function as part of an SCF (Skp1, Cullins, F-box proteins) E3 ligase. Overall, our study revealed that the F-box protein Fbp1 is essential for fungal sporulation and virulence in C. neoformans, which likely represents a conserved novel virulence control mechanism that involves the SCF E3 ubiquitin ligase-mediated proteolysis pathway.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology