Radial mass density, charge, and epitope distribution in the Cryptococcus neoformans capsule

Michelle E. Maxson, Ekaterina Dadachova, Arturo Casadevall, Oscar Zaragoza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Exposure of Cryptococcus neoformans cells to gamma radiation results in a gradual release of capsnlar polysaccharide, in a dose-dependent manner. This method allows the systematic exploration of different capsular regions. Using this methodology, capsule density was determined to change according to the radial distribution of glacuronoxylomaman and total polysaccharide, becoming denser at the inner regions of the capsule. Scanning electron microscopy of cells following gamma radiation treatment confirmed this finding. The zeta potential of the capsule also increased as the capsule size decreased. However, neither charge nor density differences were correlated with any change in sugar composition (xylose, mannose, and glucuronk acid) in the different capsular regions, since the proportions of these sugars remained constant throughout the capsule. Analysis of the capsular antigenic properties by monoclonal antibody binding and Scatchard analysis revealed fluctuations in the binding affinity within the capsule but not in the number of antibody binding sites, suggesting that the spatial organization of high- and low-affinity epitopes within the capsule changed according to radial position. Finally, evidence is presented that the structure of the capsule changes with capsule age, since the capsule of older cells became more resistant to gamma radiation-induced ablation. In summary, tine capsule of C. neoformans is heterogeneous in its spatial distribution and changes with age. Furthermore, our results suggest several mechanisms by which the capsule may protect the fungal cell against exogenous environmental factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-109
Number of pages15
JournalEukaryotic Cell
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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