Cryptococcus neoformans is an opportunistic fungal pathogen that causes life-threatening meningitis primarily in immunocompromised individuals. In order to survive and proliferate during infection, C. neoformans must adapt to a variety of stresses it encounters within the host. Patient outcome depends on the interaction between the pathogen and the host. Understanding the mechanisms that C. neoformans uses to facilitate adaptation to the host and promote pathogenesis is necessary to better predict disease severity and establish proper treatment. Several virulence phenotypes have been characterized in C. neoformans, but the field still lacks a complete understanding of how genotype and phenotype contribute to clinical outcome. Furthermore, while it is known that C. neoformans genotype impacts patient outcome, the mechanisms remain unknown. This lack of understanding may be due to the genetic heterogeneity of C. neoformans and the extensive phenotypic variation observed between and within isolates during infection. In this review, we summarize the current understanding of how the various genotypes and phenotypes observed in C. neoformans correlate with human disease progression in the context of patient outcome and recurrence. We also postulate the mechanisms underlying the genetic and phenotypic changes that occur in vivo to promote rapid adaptation in the host.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health [grant numbers R01AI134636, R01NS118538, R21NS108715 (to K.N.), K12GM119955 (to S.A.), F31AI148047 (to K.M.J.)].
© 2020 The Author(s)