A lytic polysaccharide monooxygenase-like protein functions in fungal copper import and meningitis


Infection by the fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans causes lethal meningitis, primarily in immune-compromised individuals. Colonization of the brain by C. neoformans is dependent on copper (Cu) acquisition from the host, which drives critical virulence mechanisms. While C. neoformans Cu+ import and virulence are dependent on the Ctr1 and Ctr4 proteins, little is known concerning extracellular Cu ligands that participate in this process. We identified a C. neoformans gene, BIM1, that is strongly induced during Cu limitation and which encodes a protein related to lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases (LPMOs). Surprisingly, bim1 mutants are Cu deficient, and Bim1 function in Cu accumulation depends on Cu2+ coordination and cell-surface association via a glycophosphatidyl inositol anchor. Bim1 participates in Cu uptake in concert with Ctr1 and expression of this pathway drives brain colonization in mouse infection models. These studies demonstrate a role for LPMO-like proteins as a critical factor for Cu acquisition in fungal meningitis.

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Fig. 1: C. neoformans BIM1 transcription is induced in Cu deficiency in a Cuf1-dependent manner.
Fig. 2: C. neoformans bim1Δ mutants have a Cu-deficiency growth phenotype.
Fig. 3: C. neoformans Bim1 is a mannoprotein that is attached to the cell through a GPI anchor.
Fig. 4: Bim1 binds Cu2+ via His and Asp ligands.
Fig. 5: The Bim-Ctr1 Cu-uptake pathway is a determinant of virulence in mouse models of cryptococcal meningitis.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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This work was partially supported by funds from the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) (grant nos. GM041840 to D.J.T.; GM084176 to K.J.F.; GM127390 to N.V.G.), the Welch Foundation (grant no. I-1505 to N.V.G.), a postdoctoral fellowship from German Research Foundation grant PR 1727/1-1 (to C.P.), fellowship support from NIH (no. GM100678-02 to R.A.F.), NIH Molecular Mycology and Pathogenesis Training program (5T32a1052080 to A.D.S.), the Novo Nordisk Foundation grant (no. NNF17SA0027704 to K.S.J.), travel support from the School of Science and Math at the College of Charleston (to P.R.G.) and fellowship support from NIH (no. GM084146-S1) and Duke University BioCoRE (R25-GM103765) (to S.E.C.). We thank J. Lodge (Department of Molecular Microbiology, Washington University School of Medicine) for providing the anti-Cda2 antibody, Y. Song and M. Hoy for technical assistance and J.-G. Berrin for sharing information before publication. Use of the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Light source, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, is supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences (contract no. DE-AC02-76SF00515). The SSRL Structural Molecular Biology Program is supported by the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research, and by the NIH, National Institute of General Medical Sciences (including P41GM103393). We thank authors of works that could not be appropriately cited in this work due to space-limiting constrictions. The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NIGMS or NIH.

Author information

All authors of the manuscript, S.G.-S., C.P., R.A.F., C.D., A.D.S, P.R.-G., S.E.C., S.B., L.N.K., L.L.L., K.J.F., N.V.G., K.S.J. and D.J.T., conducted and/or planned and interpreted experiments. C.P. generated strains and conducted experiments in Fig. 4c,d, and Supplementary Fig. 5c. R.A.F. conducted experiments in Fig. 1c,d. C.D. initiated the project and generated strains and initial results. A.D.S. performed all mouse retro-orbital injections and participated in all mouse experiments. P.R.-G. planned, conducted and interpreted the results of all XAS experiments. S.E.C. and K.J.F. conducted and/or planned and interpreted EPR experiments. S.B. and K.S.J. performed and/or planned and interpreted Bim1 activity experiments. L.N.K. and N.V.G. did bioinformatics analysis that led to the identifying Bim1 as an LPMO-like protein. L.L.L. performed Bim1 homology modeling. S.G.-S. performed the rest of the experiments. S.G.-S. and D.J.T. planned and interpreted all experiments. All authors contributed to the writing and editing of the manuscript.

Correspondence to Dennis J. Thiele.

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Supplementary Figs. 1–9 and Tables 1–3.

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Supplementary Dataset 1

Strains, oligonucleotides and plasmids, numbers and descriptions.

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Garcia-Santamarina, S., Probst, C., Festa, R.A. et al. A lytic polysaccharide monooxygenase-like protein functions in fungal copper import and meningitis. Nat Chem Biol 16, 337–344 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41589-019-0437-9

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Further reading

  • A fungal family of lytic polysaccharide monooxygenase-like copper proteins

    • Aurore Labourel
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