Cryptococcus neoformans STE12α regulates virulence but is not essential for mating

Y. C. Chang, B. L. Wickes, G. F. Miller, L. A. Penoyer, K. J. Kwon-Chung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


The Cryptococcus neoformans STE12α gene, a homologue of Saccharomyces cerevisiae STE12, exists only in mating type (MAT)α cells. In S. cerevisiae, STE12 was required for mating and filament formation. In C. neoformans, haploid fruiting on filament agar required STE12α. The ability to form hyphae, however, was not affected by deletion of STE12α when convergently growing MATa strains were present. Furthermore, ste12α disruptants were fertile when mated with MATa strains, albeit with reduced mating frequency. Most importantly, the virulence of a ste12α disruptant of serotype D strain was significantly reduced in a mouse model. When the ste12α locus was reconstituted with the wild-type allele by cotransformation, virulence was restored. Histopathological analysis demonstrated a reduction in capsular size of yeast cells, less severe cystic lesions, and stronger immune responses in meninges of mice infected with ste12α cells than those of mice infected with STE12α cells. Using reporter gene constructs, we found that STE12α controls the expression of several phenotypes known to be involved in virulence, such as capsule and melanin production. These results demonstrate a clear molecular link between mating type and virulence in C. neoformans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)871-881
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 6 2000


  • Cotransformation
  • Haploid fruiting
  • Mating assay
  • STE12
  • Virulence factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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