The main cryptococcal virulence factor is its extensive polysaccharide capsule, a unique protective structure that is required for virulence and changes dramatically in response to environmental cues. We know the chemical structures of the huge polysaccharides that compose the capsule, but many questions remain about its synthesis, export, and display on the cell surface. These pathways of capsule biosynthesis, and how we might inhibit them, are a major interest of the lab. We are also investigating the synthesis of other cryptococcal glycoconjugates, which are central in fungal biology and virulence.
We study the fundamental biology and host interactions of the pathogenic fungus Cryptococcus neoformans. This yeast causes serious infections in immunocompromised individuals worldwide and kills hundreds of thousands of people each year, mainly in developing countries. Our goal is to elucidate unique aspects of cryptococcal biology that are of biological interest and may laso suggest targets for badly needed antifungal chemotherapy.