Current Genetics

, Volume 46, Issue 5, pp 247–255 | Cite as

A Sch9 protein kinase homologue controlling virulence independently of the cAMP pathway in Cryptococcus neoformans

  • Ping Wang
  • Gary M. Cox
  • Joseph Heitman
Research Article


The polysaccharide capsule is one of the established virulence factors in Cryptococcus neoformans that provides a barrier against the host-mediated immune response. Mutation of the gene encoding the Saccharomyces cerevisiae Sch9 protein kinase homologue resulted in cells with enlarged capsules in C. neoformans. Capsule production was abrogated in sch9 pka1 double mutants, indicating that protein kinase A (PKA) signaling is still necessary for capsule formation in sch9 mutants. The sch9 mutant also exhibited increased thermal tolerance, a phenotype similar to sch9 mutant strains of S. cerevisiae. In addition, the sch9 mutant was attenuated in mating and the highly encapsulated cells were attenuated in virulence, in contrast to the pkr1 mutant, lacking the regulatory subunit of protein kinase A, that produced similarly enlarged capsules yet was increased in virulence. Interestingly, the virulence for the sch9 mutant strain could be restored by introduction of a pkr1 mutation; and the sch9 pkr1 mutant strain was dramatically increased in size and capsule thickness, suggesting that Sch9 and PKA function via different targets involved in virulence. Our findings support a model in which Sch9 modulates capsule formation and contributes to the virulence of C. neoformans both independently of and in conjunction with the cAMP–PKA pathway.


Cryptococcus neoformans Sch9 kinase PKA pathway Capsule Virulence 



We thank C. Arndt, J. King, and D. Palmer for technical assistance and thank Y.-S. Bahn, D. Fox, J. Hicks, J. Perfect and C. D’Souza for comments. This work was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health grants AI54958 (P.W.), AI39115, and AI42159 (J.H.). G.C. is the recipient of a Burroughs Wellcome Fund New Investigator Award. J.H. is an associate investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a Burroughs Wellcome Scholar in Molecular Pathogenic Mycology.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Pediatrics, and Microbiology, Immunology, and ParasitologyLouisiana State University Health Sciences CenterNew OrleansUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Molecular Genetics and MicrobiologyDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Department of MedicineDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Department of Pharmacology and Cancer BiologyDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  5. 5.Howard Hughes Medical InstituteDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA

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