The CPS1 gene was identified as a virulence factor in the maize pathogen Cochliobolus heterostrophus. Hypothesizing that the homologous gene in Coccidioides posadasii could be important for virulence, we created a Delta;cps1 deletion mutant which was unable to cause disease in three strains of mice (C57BL/6, BALB/c, or the severely immunodeficient NOD-scid,γcnull [NSG]). Only a single colony was recovered from 1 of 60 C57BL/6 mice following intranasal infections of up to 4,400 spores. Following administration of very high doses (10,000 to 2.5×107 spores) to NSG and BALB/c mice, spherules were observed in lung sections at time points from day 3 to day 10 postinfection, but nearly all appeared degraded with infrequent endosporulation. Although the role of CPS1 in virulence is not understood, phenotypic alterations and transcription differences of at least 33 genes in the Δcps1 strain versus C. posadasii is consistent with both metabolic and regulatory functions for the gene. The in vitro phenotype of the Δcps1 strain showed slower growth of mycelia with delayed and lower spore production than C. posadasii, and in vitro spherules were smaller. Vaccination of C57BL/6 or BALB/c mice with live Δcps1 spores either intranasally, intraperitoneally, or subcutaneously resulted in over 95% survival with mean residual lung fungal burdens of < 1,000 CFU from an otherwise lethal C. posadasii intranasal infection. Considering its apparently complete attenuation of virulence and the high degree of resistance to C. posadasii infection when used as a vaccine, the Δcps1 strain is a promising vaccine candidate for preventing coccidioidomycosis in humans or other animals.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases