Scanning electron microscopy of encapsulated and non-encapsulated Cryptococcus neoformans and the effect of glucose on capsular polysaccharide release

Med Mycol. 1999 Aug;37(4):235-43.


Cryptococcus neoformans has a polysaccharide capsule composed primarily of glucuronoxylomannan (GXM). This study focuses on the morphology of both encapsulated and non-encapsulated organisms in the presence and absence of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) and serum proteins, and the effect of glucose on capsular polysaccharide release. Examination of the encapsulated C. neoformans strains 24067 and 34873 by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) revealed globular cells covered with a loose fibrillar network which was most prominent during the early stationary phase. In the presence of GXM-binding mAbs or serum the capsule border became distinct and bud scars were evident in the fibrillar network. In contrast, SEM of strain 52817, a non-encapsulated mutant of 34873 revealed ovoid cells devoid of a fibrillar network with bud scars and small surface protrusions. mAb 2H1 bound to cells from strains 24067 and 34873 but not 52817. No GXM was detected in supernatants of 52817 culture. For several strains, there was significantly more GXM in culture supernatants using high glucose media. In summary, our results indicate: i) SEM methods for studying capsular structure in C. neoformans; ii) no reactivity by GXM-binding mAb with a non-encapsulated strain; iii) the presence of distinctive bud scars in both encapsulated and non-encapsulated cells; and iv) dependence of GXM concentration on glucose concentration in culture media. The implications of these results are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Fungal / drug effects
  • Antigens, Fungal / metabolism
  • Cell Wall / genetics
  • Cell Wall / metabolism
  • Cell Wall / ultrastructure
  • Cryptococcus neoformans / drug effects*
  • Cryptococcus neoformans / metabolism
  • Cryptococcus neoformans / ultrastructure
  • Glucose / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Mutation
  • Polysaccharides / immunology
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism*
  • Serologic Tests


  • Antigens, Fungal
  • Polysaccharides
  • glucuronoxylomannan
  • Glucose