Zinc is an important transition metal in all living organisms and is required for numerous biological processes. However, excess zinc can also be toxic to cells and cause cellular stress. In the model fungus Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a vacuolar zinc transporter, Zrc1, plays important roles in the storage and detoxification of excess intracellular zinc to protect the cell. In this study, we identified an ortholog of the S. cerevisiae ZRC1 gene in the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. Zrc1 was localized in the vacuolar membrane in C. neoformans, and a mutant lacking ZRC1 showed significant growth defects under high-zinc conditions. These results suggested a role for Zrc1 in zinc detoxification. However, contrary to our expectation, the expression of Zrc1 was induced in cells grown in zinc-limited conditions and decreased upon the addition of zinc. These expression patterns were similar to those of Zip1, the high-affinity zinc transporter in the plasma membrane of C. neoformans. Furthermore, we used the zrc1 mutant in a murine model of cryptococcosis to examine whether a mammalian host could inhibit the survival of C. neoformans using zinc toxicity. We found that the mutant showed no difference in virulence compared with the wildtype strain. This result suggests that Zrc1-mediated zinc detoxification is not required for the virulence of C. neoformans, and imply that zinc toxicity may not be an important aspect of the host immune response to the fungus.
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Cho, M., Hu, G., Caza, M. et al. Vacuolar zinc transporter Zrc1 is required for detoxification of excess intracellular zinc in the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. J Microbiol. 56, 65–71 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12275-018-7475-y