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Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

Dr Liliane Mukaremera

Dr Liliane Mukaremera



 01392 722844

 Geoffrey Pope 325


Geoffrey Pope Building, University of Exeter , Stocker Road, Exeter, EX4 4QD, UK


I am a lecturer in Biosciences at the University of Exeter and a member of the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology at Exeter. I obtained a BSc in biotechnology from the National University of Rwanda (East Africa) before completing a MSc and PhD in medical sciences at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. I then moved to the University of Minnesota for my postdoctoral research studying the role of titan cells in the pathogenesis of the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus. My current research focuses on understanding morphological factors, specifically cell wall modifications, which influence Cryptococcus pathogenesis and disease outcome.


2013   PhD Medical Sciences (Microbiology), University of Aberdeen

2009   MSc Medical Molecular Microbiology, University of Aberdeen

2008   Bachelor in Biology (Biotechnology), National University of Rwanda


2019-Present    Lecturer University of Exeter

2014-2018        Postdoctoral Associate, University of Minnesota, Minnesota- USA

2016-2017        Adjunct Professor, St Catherine University, Minnesota- USA

2015-2016        NIH Global Health Fogarty fellow, Kampala-Uganda

2007-2008        Teaching Assistant, National University of Rwanda, Rwanda

Research group links

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Research interests

Fungal pathogens cause a wide range of infection from superficial to systemic infections, and are associated with a high rate of mortality generally exceeding 50% of infected people. Most common human fungal pathogens include Aspergillus, Candida and Cryptococcus species. Despite being one of the top human killers, the study of fungal pathogens has been neglected and these pathogens continue to cause death in humans, especially in immunocompromised people. Research on fungal pathogens is therefore desperately needed to understand fungal pathogenesis and create new therapeutics to address the growing burden of fungal infections.

My work focuses on understanding morphological factors, specifically cell wall modifications, which influence C. neoformans pathogenesis and disease outcome. The cell wall is a unique structure to fungi (absent in mammals), and therefore is a great target choice for the development of new antifungal drugs. At present, there are no drug treatments for cryptococcal infection that target the cell wall. We are currently working on characterising C. neoformans cell wall as a potential antifungal drug target.

Research projects

Current projects:

1. Roles of Cryptococcus cell wall dynamics during infection and antifungal drug
resistance (AMS Springboard award)

2. Cryptococcus-Mycobacterium interactions: Framework for a co-infection model. (Co-investigator with Dr Ivy Dambuza from MRC CMM)

Past project:

1. A characterisation of the neuroinflammatory effects of cell wall and capsular fractions of Cryptococcus neoformans in a mouse organotypic brain slice culture system (Co-investigator with Dr Rachael Danarembizi from the Unievrsity of Cape Town)

Research grants

  • 2021 Academy of Medical Sciences
    Title: Roles of Cryptococcus cell wall dynamics during infection and antifungal drug resistance Meningitis caused by the fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans kills many people with weakened immunity, such as those with cancer, organ transplant recipients and HIV/AIDS. In HIV/AIDS patients alone, this meningitis kills over 181,000 people each year even with antifungal treatment. Therefore, better drugs are urgently needed to treat Cryptococcus infection. To develop new drugs, we need a better understanding of the fungal pathogen causing the disease. Cryptococcus has a shield made of two layers; the capsule and the cell wall. This shield protects Cryptococcus from harsh environmental conditions and the immune system. Many studies have focused on the role of the capsule in Cryptococcus infections while the knowledge about the cell wall has lagged behind, despite it being a major target for the treatment of other fungal infections. The aim of this project is to determine how the cell wall changes in the presence of drugs used to treat patients suffering from Cryptococcus Meningitis. We will compare the cell wall composition of Cryptococcus cells grown in the laboratory with and without antifungal drugs, and Cryptococcus cells isolated directly from patients before treatment and 7 days into treatment. We will also identify how genes responsible for cell wall components are controlled in the presence of these antifungal drugs. The cell wall is absent in human cells, and hence is a great target for antifungal drug development. Thus, this project will provide crucial new information about the Cryptococcus cell wall that will be required for future drug development.

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Journal articles

Mukaremera L (2023). The Cryptococcus wall: a different wall for a unique lifestyle. PLoS Pathogens, 19(2).
Mukaremera L (2023). Why I care about Cryptococcus neoformans. Nat Microbiol, 8(8), 1373-1375.  Author URL.
Rhein J, Hullsiek KH, Tugume L, Nuwagira E, Mpoza E, Evans EE, Kiggundu R, Pastick KA, Ssebambulidde K, Akampurira A, et al (2019). Adjunctive sertraline for HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis: a randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind phase 3 trial. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 19(8), 843-851.
Mukaremera L, McDonald TR, Nielsen JN, Molenaar CJ, Akampurira A, Schutz C, Taseera K, Muzoora C, Meintjes G, Meya DB, et al (2019). The Mouse Inhalation Model of Cryptococcus neoformans Infection Recapitulates Strain Virulence in Humans and Shows that Closely Related Strains can Possess Differential Virulence. Infection and Immunity, 87(5)(5). Abstract.
Rhein J, Hullsiek KH, Evans EE, Tugume L, Nuwagira E, Ssebambulidde K, Kiggundu R, Mpoza E, Musubire AK, Bangdiwala AS, et al (2018). Detrimental Outcomes of Unmasking Cryptococcal Meningitis with Recent ART Initiation. Open Forum Infectious Diseases, 5(8).
Mpoza E, Mukaremera L, Kundura DA, Akampurira A, Luggya T, Tadeo KK, Pastick KA, Bridge SC, Tugume L, Kiggundu R, et al (2018). Evaluation of a point-of-care immunoassay test kit ‘StrongStep’ for cryptococcal antigen detection. PLOS ONE, 13(1), e0190652-e0190652.
Tugume L, Rhein J, Hullsiek KH, Mpoza E, Kiggundu R, Ssebambulidde K, Schutz C, Taseera K, Williams DA, Abassi M, et al (2018). HIV-Associated Cryptococcal Meningitis Occurring at Relatively Higher CD4 Counts. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 219(6), 877-883.
Ssebambulidde K, Bangdiwala AS, Kwizera R, Kandole TK, Tugume L, Kiggundu R, Mpoza E, Nuwagira E, Williams DA, Lofgren SM, et al (2018). Symptomatic Cryptococcal Antigenemia Presenting as Early Cryptococcal Meningitis with Negative Cerebral Spinal Fluid Analysis. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 68(12), 2094-2098.
Mukaremera L, Lee KK, Wagener J, Wiesner DL, Gow NAR, Nielsen K (2018). Titan cell production in Cryptococcus neoformans reshapes the cell wall and capsule composition during infection. The Cell Surface, 1, 15-24.
Hommel B, Mukaremera L, Cordero RJB, Coelho C, Desjardins CA, Sturny-Leclère A, Janbon G, Perfect JR, Fraser JA, Casadevall A, et al (2018). Titan cells formation in Cryptococcus neoformans is finely tuned by environmental conditions and modulated by positive and negative genetic regulators. PLoS Pathogens, 14(5). Abstract.
Mukaremera L, Nielsen K (2017). Adaptive Immunity to Cryptococcus neoformans Infections. Journal of Fungi, 3(4), 64-64.
Mukaremera L, Lee KK, Mora-Montes HM, Gow NAR (2017). Candida albicans yeast, pseudohyphal, and hyphal morphogenesis differentially affects immune recognition. Frontiers in Immunology, 8(JUN). Abstract.
Wiesner DL, Specht CA, Lee CK, Smith KD, Mukaremera L, Lee ST, Lee CG, Elias JA, Nielsen JN, Boulware DR, et al (2015). Chitin Recognition via Chitotriosidase Promotes Pathologic Type-2 Helper T Cell Responses to Cryptococcal Infection. PLOS Pathogens, 11(3), e1004701-e1004701.
Gerstein AC, Fu MS, Mukaremera L, Li Z, Ormerod KL, Fraser JA, Berman J, Nielsen K (2015). Polyploid Titan Cells Produce Haploid and Aneuploid Progeny to Promote Stress Adaptation. mBio, 6(5). Abstract.
Brown GD, Meintjes G, Kolls JK, Gray C, Horsnell W, Working Group from the EMBO-AIDS Related Mycoses Workshop, Achan B, Alber G, Aloisi M, Armstrong-James D, et al (2014). AIDS-related mycoses: the way forward. Trends Microbiol, 22(3), 107-109. Abstract.  Author URL.
Cheng SC, van de Veerdonk FL, Lenardon M, Stoffels M, Plantinga T, Smeekens S, Rizzetto L, Mukaremera L, Preechasuth K, Cavalieri D, et al (2011). The dectin-1/inflammasome pathway is responsible for the induction of protective T-helper 17 responses that discriminate between yeasts and hyphae of Candida albicans. Journal of Leukocyte Biology, 90(2), 357-366. Abstract.


Hall RA, Lenardon MD, Alvarez FJ, Nogueira FM, Mukaremera L, Gow NAR (2013). The Candida albicans cell wall: Structure and role in morphogenesis and immune recognition. In  (Ed) The Fungal Cell Wall, 1-26. Abstract.


Mukaremera L, Lee KK, Gow NAR, Nielsen K (2018). Titan cell production reshapes Cryptococcus neoformans cell surface composition in order to modulate and/ or evade the host immune system.  Author URL.
Mukaremera L, Whittington A, Mora-Montes HM, Gow NAR (2012). <i>Candida albicans</i> pseudohypha: Intermediate in physiological and immunological properties between yeast and hyphal cells?.  Author URL.

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Supervision / Group

Postgraduate researchers

  • Alison Gifford

Research Technicians

  • Eduardo Galue Mozo


  • Sophie Hodson 2021-2022
  • Daniel Jones

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