Identification of a basidiomycete-specific Vilse-like GTPase activating proteins (GAPs) and its roles in the production of virulence factors inCryptococcus neoformans

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Cryptococcus neoformans is a basidiomycetous pathogenic yeast that causes fatal infections in both immunocompetent and immunocompromised patients. Regulation on the production of its virulence factors is not fully understood. Here we reported the characterization of a gene, named CVH1(CNA06260), encoding a Drosophila Vilse-like RhoGAP homolog, which is hallmarked by three conserved functional domains: WW, MyTH4 and RhoGAP. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that CVH1 is highly conserved from protists to mammals and interestingly in basidiomycetes, but absent in plants or Ascomycota and other lower fungi. This phylogenetic distribution indicates an evolutionary link among these groups of organisms. Functional analyses demonstrated that CVH1 was involved in stress tolerance and virulence factor production. By disrupting CVH1, we created a second mutant cvh1Δ with the CRISPR-Cas9 editing tool. The mutant strain exhibited hypersensitivity to osmotic stress by 2 M sorbitol and NaCl, suggesting defects in the HOG signaling pathway and an interaction of Cvh1 with the HOG pathway. Hypersensitivity of cvh1Δ to 1% Congo red and 0.01% SDS suggests that the cell wall integrity was impaired in the mutant. And cvh1Δ hardly produced the pigment melanin and capsule. Our study for the first time demonstrates that the fungal Vilse-like RhoGAP CVH1 is an important regulator of multiple biological processes in C. neoformans, and provides novel insights into the regulatory circuit of stress resistance/cell wall integrity, and laccase and capsule synthesis in C. neoformans.

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