Unconventional constituents and shared molecular architecture of the melanized cell wall of c. Neoformans and spore wall of s. cerevisiae

Christine Chrissian, Coney Pei Chen Lin, Emma Camacho, Arturo Casadevall, Aaron M. Neiman, Ruth E. Stark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The fungal cell wall serves as the interface between the cell and the environment. Fungal cell walls are composed largely of polysaccharides, primarily glucans and chitin, though in many fungi stress-resistant cell types elaborate additional cell wall structures. Here, we use solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to compare the architecture of cell wall fractions isolated from Saccharomyces cerevisiae spores and Cryptococcus neoformans melanized cells. The specialized cell walls of these two divergent fungi are highly similar in composition. Both use chitosan, the deacetylated derivative of chitin, as a scaffold on which a polyaromatic polymer, dityrosine and melanin, respectively, is assembled. Additionally, we demonstrate that a previously identified but uncharacterized component of the S. cerevisiae spore wall is composed of triglycerides, which are also present in the C. neoformans melanized cell wall. Moreover, we identify a tyrosine-derived constituent in the C. neoformans wall that, although it is not dityrosine, is a non-pigment constituent of the cell wall. The similar composition of the walls of these two phylogenetically distant species suggests that triglycerides, polyaromatics, and chitosan are basic building blocks used to assemble highly stress-resistant cell walls and the use of these constituents may be broadly conserved in other fungal species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number329
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Fungi
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Chitin and chitosan
  • Cryptococcus neoformans
  • Dityrosine
  • Fungal cell wall
  • Macromolecular assembly
  • Melanin
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Solid-state NMR
  • Triglycerides

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science
  • Microbiology (medical)


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