Capsules from pathogenic and non-pathogenic Cryptococcus spp. manifest significant differences in structure and ability to protect against phagocytic cells

Glauber S. de Araujo, Fernanda L. Fonseca, Bruno Pontes, Andre Torres, Radames J.B. Cordero, Rosely M. Zancopé-Oliveira, Arturo Casadevall, Nathan B. Viana, Leonardo Nimrichter, Marcio L. Rodrigues, Eloi S. Garcia, Wanderley de Souza, Susana Frases

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47 Scopus citations


Capsule production is common among bacterial species, but relatively rare in eukaryotic microorganisms. Members of the fungal Cryptococcus genus are known to produce capsules, which are major determinants of virulence in the highly pathogenic species Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii. Although the lack of virulence of many species of the Cryptococcus genus can be explained solely by the lack of mammalian thermotolerance, it is uncertain whether the capsules from these organisms are comparable to those of the pathogenic cryptococci. In this study, we compared the characteristic of the capsule from the non-pathogenic environmental yeast Cryptococcus liquefaciens with that of C. neoformans. Microscopic observations revealed that C. liquefaciens has a capsule visible in India ink preparations that was also efficiently labeled by three antibodies generated to specific C. neoformans capsular antigens. Capsular polysaccharides of C. liquefaciens were incorporated onto the cell surface of acapsular C. neoformans mutant cells. Polysaccharide composition determinations in combination with confocal microscopy revealed that C. liquefaciens capsule consisted of mannose, xylose, glucose, glucuronic acid, galactose and N-acetylglucosamine. Physical chemical analysis of the C. liquefaciens polysaccharides in comparison with C. neoformans samples revealed significant differences in viscosity, elastic properties and macromolecular structure parameters of polysaccharide solutions such as rigidity, effective diameter, zeta potential and molecular mass, which nevertheless appeared to be characteristics of linear polysaccharides that also comprise capsular polysaccharide of C. neoformans. The environmental yeast, however, showed enhanced susceptibility to the antimicrobial activity of the environmental phagocytes, suggesting that the C. liquefaciens capsular components are insufficient in protecting yeast cells against killing by amoeba. These results suggest that capsular structures in pathogenic Cryptococcus species and environmental species share similar features, but also manifest significant difference that could influence their potential to virulence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere29561
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 12 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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