Galleria mellonella as a model system to study Cryptococcus neoformans pathogenesis

Eleftherios Mylonakis, Roberto Moreno, Joseph B. El Khoury, Alexander Idnurm, Joseph Heitman, Stephen B. Calderwood, Frederick M. Ausubel, Andrew Diener

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

333 Scopus citations


Evaluation of Cryptococcus neoformans virulence in a number of nonmammalian hosts suggests that C. neoformans is a nonspecific pathogen. We used the killing of Galleria mellonella (the greater wax moth) caterpillar by C. neoformans to develop an invertebrate host model system that can be used to study cryptococcal virulence, host immune responses to infection, and the effects of antifungal compounds. All varieties of C. neoformans killed G. mellonella. After injection into the insect hemocoel, C. neoformans proliferated and, despite successful phagocytosis by host hemocytes, killed caterpillars both at 37°C and 30°C. The rate and extent of killing depended on the cryptococcal strain and the number of fungal cells injected. The sequenced C. neoformans clinical strain H99 was the most virulent of the strains tested and killed caterpillars with inocula as low as 20 CFU/caterpillar. Several C. neoformans genes previously shown to be involved in mammalian virulence (CAP59, GPA1, RAS1, and PKA1) also played a role in G. mellonella killing. Combination antifungal therapy (amphotericin B plus flucytosine) administered before or after inoculation was more effective than monotherapy in prolonging survival and in decreasing the tissue burden of cryptococci in the hemocoel. The G. mellonella-C. neoformans pathogenicity model may be a substitute for mammalian models of infection with C. neoformans and may facilitate the in vivo study of fungal virulence and efficacy of antifungal therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3842-3850
Number of pages9
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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