Felipe H. Santiago-Tirado Assistant Professor

The Cell Biology of Cryptococcal Disease
Felipe H. Santiago-Tirado

Research Interests:

Fungal infections are an underappreciated global public health crisis, with over 300 million people globally afflicted with serious fungal infections, and 25 million of them at risk of dying or suffering life-long sequelae (http://www.gaffi.org/why/fungal-disease-frequency/). These infections are among the most difficult to treat diseases, not only due to a lack of effective antifungals, but also due to an incomplete understanding of their pathogenesis, resulting in ~1.6 million deaths yearly. I study one of the most common culprits, the ubiquitous environmental fungus Cryptococcus neoformans, which in 2020 was responsible for 120,000 deaths in the HIV population alone. More concerningly, due to medical advances such as organ transplants or steroid treatments, cryptococcal infection is steadily increasing in the non-HIV population. Because this fungus is present in the environment, we all will be exposed to it at some point in our lives. I specifically study and address questions related to how this pathogenic fungus establishes an infection and disseminates to cause life-threatening disease. I am specifically interested in the unique cell biology of this fungus, such as its ability to grow intracellularly, cross cellular barriers, and secrete immunomodulatory molecules, all of which are the main drivers of the disease. I also collaborate with Dr. Flores-Mireles, a leader in urinary tract infections, to study how Candida, another common fungal pathogen, is able to infect the bladder in the presence of urinary catheters.



  • Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN  2018 – Present
  • Staff Research Scientist, Molecular Microbiology Department, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO  2017 – 2018
  • Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) Advanced Course, Molecular Mycology: Current Approaches to Fungal Pathogenesis, MBL, Woods Hole, MA  2013
  • Postdoctoral Researcher, Molecular Microbiology Department, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 2012 – 2017
  • Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 2011 – 2012
  • PhD, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY  2011


Selected Publications:

  • Arsenault-Yee E, Ross RL, Santiago-Tirado FH. (2023) Phenotypic characterization of HAM1, a novel mating regulator of the fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. bioRxiv 2023;09.18.558251. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.09.18.558251.
  • Stuckey PV and Santiago-Tirado FH. (2023) Fungal mechanisms of intracellular survival: what can we learn from bacterial pathogens? Infection and Immunity 91(9):e0043422. doi: 10.1128/iai.00434-22.
  • La Bella AA, Andersen MJ, Gervais NC, Molina JJ, Molesan A, Stuckey PV, Wensing L, Nobile CJ, Shapiro RS, Santiago-Tirado FH, Flores-Mireles AL. (2023) The catheterized bladder environment promotes Efg1- and Als1-dependent Candida albicans infection. Science Advances 9(9):eade7689. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.ade7689.
  • Santiago-Tirado FH, Hurtaux T, Geddes-McAlister J, Nguyen D, Helms V, Doering TL, and Römisch K. (2023) The ER protein translocation channel subunit Sbh1 controls virulence of Cryptococcus neoformans. mBio 14(1):e0338422. doi: 10.1128/mbio.03384-22.
  • Gervais NC, La Bella AA, Wensing LF, Sharma J, Acquaviva V, Best M, Cadena López RO, Fogal M, Uthayakumar D, Chavez A, Santiago-Tirado F, Flores-Mireles AL, Shapiro RS. (2022) Development and applications of a CRISPR activation system for facile genetic overexpression in Candida albicans. G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics jkac301. doi: 10.1093/g3journal/jkac301.
  • Santiago-Burgos EJ, Stuckey PV, Santiago-Tirado FH. (2022) Real-time visualization of phagosomal pH manipulation by Cryptococcus neoformans in an immune signal-dependent way. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology 12:967486. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2022.967486.
  • Winski CJ, Qian Y, Mobashery S, Santiago-Tirado FH. (2022) An Atypical ABC Transporter Is Involved in Antifungal Resistance and Host Interactions in the Pathogenic Fungus Cryptococcus neoformans. mBio 13(4):e0153922. doi: 10.1128/mbio.01539-22.
  • Santiago-Tirado FH, Onken MD, Klein RS, Cooper JA, and Doering TL. (2017) Trojan horse transit contributes to blood-brain barrier crossing of a eukaryotic pathogen. mBio 8(1): e02183-16. doi: 10.1128/mBio.02183-16
  • Santiago-Tirado FH, Peng T, Yang M, Hang HC, and Doering TL. (2015) A Single Protein S-acyl Transferase Acts through Diverse Substrates to Determine Cryptococcal Morphology, Stress Tolerance, and Pathogenic Outcome. PLoS Pathogens 11: e1004908. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004908.