Rajendra Upadhya, PhD

Research Track FAculty
Assistant Research Professor

Rajendra Upadhya, PhD
Assistant Research Professor
Jennifer Lodge Laboratory


Research Interests:
The role of Cryptococcus cell wall chitosan in fungal virulence and protective immunity Cryptococcus neoformans is a prominent opportunistic fungal pathogen that causes catastrophic meningoencephalitis in immunocompromised people and accounts for a significant proportion of AIDS-related mortality. The fungal cell wall is an essential organelle that changes constantly during different stages of growth and is critical for fungal pathogenesis. Chitin, a crucial component of the fungal cell wall, is primarily deacetylated to chitosan in C. neoformans. Our research is centered on 1) the effect of chitosan in yeast cell growth and proliferation. 2) Chitosan synthesis regulation in yeast during laboratory growth and animal infection 3) The involvement of cell wall chitosan in Cryptococcus species virulence and pathogenicity. We have previously demonstrated that chitosan in the cell wall of Cryptococcus is essential for its virulence, and the mutant’s lack of it in the cell wall makes it a possible vaccine candidate for Cryptococcus infection. As a result, one of our goals is also is to define the mechanisms of protective immunity elicited by the Cryptococcus chitosan deficient mutant.

Research papers/reviews in peer reviewed journals: (Recent Ten listed)

1. Rajendra Upadhya*, Woei C. Lam, Camaron R. Hole, Danealle Parchment, Chrono K. Lee, Charles A. Specht, Stuart M. Levitz, and Jennifer K. Lodge (2021) Cryptococcus neoformans Cda1 and Cda2 coordinate deacetylation of chitin during infection to control fungal virulence. The Cell Surface, (7), December 2021, 100066.

2. Cryptococcus neoformans Chitin Synthase 3 Plays a Critical Role in Dampening Host Inflammatory Responses. Hole CR, Lam WC, Upadhya R, Lodge JK. mBio. 2020 Feb 18;11(1). pii: e03373-19. doi: 10.1128/mBio.03373-19.

3. Chitosan Biosynthesis and Virulence in the Human Fungal Pathogen Cryptococcus gattii. Lam WC, Upadhya R, Specht CA, Ragsdale AE, Hole CR, Levitz SM, Lodge JK. mSphere. 2019 Oct 9;4(5). pii: e00644-19. doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00644-19.

4. El Bissati K, Redel H, Ting LM, Lykins JD, McPhillie MJ, Upadhya R, Woster PM, Yarlett N, Kim K, Weiss LM. 2019. Novel Synthetic Polyamines Have Potent Antimalarial Activities in vitro and in vivo by Decreasing Intracellular Spermidine and Spermine Concentrations. Front Cell Infect Microbiol 9:9.

5. Upadhya R, Baker LG, Lam WC, Specht CA, Donlin MJ, Lodge JK. 2018. Cryptococcus neoformans Cda1 and Its Chitin Deacetylase Activity Are Required for Fungal Pathogenesis. MBio 9.

6. Upadhya R, Lam WC, Maybruck BT, Donlin MJ, Chang AL, Kayode S, Ormerod KL, Fraser JA, Doering TL, Lodge JK. 2017. A fluorogenic C. neoformans reporter strain with a robust expression of m-cherry expressed from a safe haven site in the genome. Fungal Genet Biol 108:13-25.

7. El Bissati K, Suvorova ES, Xiao H, Lucas O, Upadhya R, Ma Y, Angeletti RH, White MW, Weiss LM, Kim K. 2016. Toxoplasma gondii Arginine Methyltransferase 1 (PRMT1) Is Necessary for Centrosome Dynamics during Tachyzoite Cell Division. MBio 7:e02094-15.

8. Homer CM, Summers DK, Goranov AI, Clarke SC, Wiesner DL, Diedrich JK, Moresco JJ, Toffaletti D, Upadhya R, Caradonna I, Petnic S, Pessino V, Cuomo CA, Lodge JK, Perfect J, Yates JR, 3rd, Nielsen K, Craik CS, Madhani HD. 2016. Intracellular Action of a Secreted Peptide Required for Fungal Virulence. Cell Host Microbe 19:849-64.

9. Upadhya R, Lam WC, Maybruck B, Specht CA, Levitz SM, Lodge JK. 2016. Induction of Protective Immunity to Cryptococcal Infection in Mice by a Heat-Killed, Chitosan-Deficient Strain of Cryptococcus neoformans. MBio 7.
10. Upadhya R, Donlin MJ, Lodge JK. 2014. Cryptococcus at work: gene expression during human infection. MBio 5:e01097.