Core N-glycan structures are critical for the pathogenicity of cryptococcus neoformans by modulating host cell death

Eun Jung Thak, Su Bin Lee, Shengjie Xu-Vanpala, Dong Jik Lee, Seung Yeon Chung, Yong Sun Bahn, Doo Byoung Oh, Mari L. Shinohara, Hyun Ah Kang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Cryptococcus neoformans is a human-pathogenic fungal pathogen that causes life-threatening meningoencephalitis in immunocompromised individuals. To investigate the roles of N-glycan core structure in cryptococcal pathogenicity, we constructed mutant strains of C. neoformans with defects in the assembly of lipid-linked N-glycans in the luminal side of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Deletion of ALG3 (alg3Δ), which encodes dolichyl-phosphate-mannose (Dol-P-Man)-dependent ɑ-1,3-mannosyltransferase, resulted in the production of truncated neutral N-glycans carrying five mannose residues as a major species. Despite moderate or nondetect-able defects in virulence-associated phenotypes in vitro, the alg3Δ mutant was aviru-lent in a mouse model of systemic cryptococcosis. Notably, the mutant did not show defects in early stages of host cell interaction during infection, including attachment to lung epithelial cells, opsonic/nonopsonic phagocytosis, and manipulation of phagosome acidification. However, the ability to drive macrophage cell death was greatly decreased in this mutant, without loss of cell wall remodeling capacity. Fur-thermore, deletion of ALG9 and ALG12, encoding Dol-P-Man-dependent ɑ-1,2-mannosyltransferases and ɑ-1,6-mannosyltransferases, generating truncated core N-glycans with six and seven mannose residues, respectively, also displayed remark-ably reduced macrophage cell death and in vivo virulence. However, secretion levels of interleukin-1ß (IL-1ß) were not reduced in the bone marrow-derived dendritic cells obtained from Asc-and Gsdmd-deficient mice infected with the alg3Δ mutant strain, excluding the possibility that pyroptosis is a main host cell death pathway dependent on intact core N-glycans. Our results demonstrated N-glycan structures as a critical feature in modulating death of host cells, which is exploited by as a strategy for host cell escape for dissemination of C. neoformans. IMPORTANCE We previously reported that the outer mannose chains of N-glycans are dispensable for the virulence of C. neoformans, which is in stark contrast to findings for the other human-pathogenic yeast, Candida albicans. Here, we present evi-dence that an intact core N-glycan structure is required for C. neoformans pathoge-nicity by systematically analyzing alg3∆, alg9∆, and alg12∆ strains that have defects in lipid-linked N-glycan assembly and in in vivo virulence. The alg null mutants pro-ducing truncated core N-glycans were defective in inducing host cell death after phagocytosis, which is triggered as a mechanism of pulmonary escape and dissemination of C. neoformans, thus becoming inactive in causing fatal infection. The results clearly demonstrated the critical features of the N-glycan structure in mediating the interaction with host cells during fungal infection. The delineation of the roles of protein glycosylation in fungal pathogenesis not only provides insight into the glycan-based fungal infection mechanism but also will aid in the development of novel antifungal agents.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00711-20
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (grant no. NRF-2019R1A2C1084942 and grant no. NRF2018R1A5A1025077). E.J.T. was supported by the Chung-Ang University Excellent Student Scholarship in 2014.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Thak et al.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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