The polysaccharide capsule of the pathogenic fungus Cryptococcus neoformans is an important virulence factor, but relatively little is known about its architecture. We applied a combination of radiological, chemical, and serological methods to investigate the structure of this polysaccharide capsule. Exposure of C. neoformans cells to gamma radiation, dimethyl sulfoxide, or radiolabeled monoclonal antibody removed a significant part of the capsule. Short intervals of gamma irradiation removed the outer portion of the cryptococcal capsule without killing cells, which could subsequently repair their capsules. Survival analysis of irradiated wild-type, acapsular mutant, and complemented mutant strains demonstrated that the capsule contributed to radioprotection and had a linear attenuation coefficient higher than that of lead. The capsule portions remaining after dimethyl sulfoxide or gamma radiation treatment were comparable in size, 65 to 66 μm3, and retained immunoreactivity for a monoclonal antibody to glucuronoxylomannan. Simultaneous or sequential treatment of the cells with dimethyl sulfoxide and radiation removed the remaining capsule so that it was not visible by light microscopy. The capsule could be protected against radiation by either of the free radical scavengers ascorbic acid and sorbitol. Sugar composition analysis of polysaccharide removed from the outer and inner parts of the capsule revealed significant differences in glucuronic acid and xylose molar ratios, implying differences in the chemical structure of the constituent polysaccharides. Our results provide compelling evidence for the existence of two zones in the C. neoformans capsule that differ in susceptibility to dimethyl sulfoxide and radiation and, possibly, in packing and composition.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology