Cryptococcus neoformans-infected macrophages release proinflammatory extracellular vesicles: Insight into their components by multi-omics

Lei Zhang, Keming Zhang, Hang Li, Carolina Coelho, Diego de Souza Gonçalves, Man Shun Fu, Xinhua Li, Ernesto S. Nakayasu, Young Mo Kim, Wanqing Liao, Weihua Pan, Arturo Casadevall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cryptococcus neoformans causes deadly mycosis in immunocompromised individuals. Macrophages are key cells fighting against microbes. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are cell-to-cell communication mediators. The roles of EVs from infected host cells in the interaction with Cryptococcus remain uninvestigated. Here, EVs from viable C. neo-formans-infected macrophages reduced fungal burdens but led to shorter survival of infected mice. In vitro, EVs induced naive macrophages to an inflammatory phenotype. Transcriptome analysis showed that EVs from viable C. neoformans-infected macro-phages activated immune-related pathways, including p53 in naive human and murine macrophages. Conserved analysis demonstrated that basic cell biological processes, including cell cycle and division, were activated by infection-derived EVs from both murine and human infected macrophages. Combined proteomics, lipidomics, and metabo-lomics of EVs from infected macrophages showed regulation of pathways such as extracellular matrix (ECM) receptors and phosphatidylcholine. This form of intermacro-phage communication could serve to prepare cells at more distant sites of infection to resist C. neoformans infection. IMPORTANCE Cryptococcus neoformans causes cryptococcal meningitis, which is frequent in patients with HIV/AIDS, especially in less-developed countries. The incidence of cryp-tococcal meningitis is close to 1 million each year globally. Macrophages are key cells that protect the body against microbes, including C. neoformans. Extracellular vesicles are a group of membrane structures that are released from cells such as macrophages that modulate cell activities via the transfer of materials such as proteins, lipids, and RNAs. In this study, we found that Cryptococcus neoformans-infected macrophages pro-duce extracellular vesicles that enhance the inflammatory response in Cryptococcus-infected mice. These Cryptococcus neoformans-infected macrophage vesicles also showed higher fungicidal biological effects on inactivated macrophages. Using omics technology, unique protein and lipid signatures were identified in these extracellular vesicles. Transcriptome analysis showed that these vesicles activated immune-related pathways like p53 in naive macrophages. The understanding of this intermacrophage communication could provide potential targets for the design of therapeutic agents to fight this deadly mycosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00279-21
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • Cryptococcus neoformans
  • Extracellular vesicles
  • Lipidomics
  • Metabolomics
  • Proteomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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