HIV/AIDS patients, cancer chemotherapy patients, and organ transplant recipients are highly susceptible to infection by opportunistic fungal pathogens, organisms common in the environment that are harmless to normal individuals. Understanding how these pathogens cause disease requires the identification of genes required for virulence and the determination of their molecular function. Our work addresses the latter problem using the yeast Cryptococcus neoformans, which is estimated to cause 600,000 deaths annually worldwide in the HIV/AIDS population. We describe a method for determining gene function in which C. neoformans genes are expressed in deletion mutants of all nonessential genes of the well-studied model yeast S. cerevisiae. By examining the impact on growth (enhancement or suppression) we generated “cross-species” genetic interaction profiles. We compared these profiles to the published genetic interaction profiles of S. cerevisiae deletion mutants to identify those with correlated patterns of genetic interactions. We hypothesized that the known functions of S. cerevisiae genes with correlated profiles could predict the function of the pathogen gene. Indeed, experimental tests in C. neoformans for two pathogenicity genes of previously unknown function found the functional predictions obtained from genetic interaction profiles to be accurate, demonstrating the utility of the cross-species approach.
Via Guogen Yang