Replicative Aging Remodels the Cell Wall and Is Associated with Increased Intracellular Trafficking in Human Pathogenic Yeasts

Vanessa K.A. Silva, Somanon Bhattacharya, Natalia Kronbauer Oliveira, Anne G. Savitt, Daniel Zamith-Miranda, Joshua D. Nosanchuk, Bettina C. Fries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Replicative aging is an underexplored field of research in medical mycology. Cryptococcus neoformans (Cn) and Candida glabrata (Cg) are dreaded fungal pathogens that cause fatal invasive infections. The fungal cell wall is essential for yeast viability and pathogenesis. In this study, we provide data characterizing age-associated modifications to the cell wall of Cn and Cg. Here, we report that old yeast cells upregulate genes of cell wall biosynthesis, leading to cell wall reorganization and increased levels of all major components, including glucan, chitin, and its derivatives, as well as mannan. This results in a significant thickening of the cell wall in aged cells. Old-generation yeast cells exhibited drastic ultrastructural changes, including the presence of abundant vesicle-like particles in the cytoplasm, and enlarged vacuoles with altered pH homeostasis. Our findings suggest that the cell wall modifications could be enabled by augmented intracellular trafficking. This work furthers our understanding of the cell phenotype that emerges during aging. It highlights differences in these two fungal pathogens and elucidates mechanisms that explain the enhanced resistance of old cells to antifungals and phagocytic attacks. IMPORTANCE Cryptococcus neoformans and Candida glabrata are two opportunistic human fungal pathogens that cause life-threatening diseases. During infection, both microorganisms have the ability to persist for long periods, and treatment failure can occur even if standard testing identifies the yeasts to be sensitive to antifungals. Replicative life span is a trait that is measured by the number of divisions a cell undergoes before death. Aging in fungi is associated with enhanced tolerance to antifungals and resistance to phagocytosis, and characterization of old cells may help identify novel antifungal targets. The cell wall remains an attractive target for new therapies because it is essential for fungi and is not present in humans. This study shows that the organization of the fungal cell wall changes remarkably during aging and becomes thicker and is associated with increased intracellular trafficking as well as the alteration of vacuole morphology and pH homeostasis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00190
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • Candida glabrata
  • Cell wall
  • Cryptococcus neoformans
  • Replicative lifespan
  • Vesicle trafficking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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