The polysaccharide capsule of the pathogenic fungus Cryptococcus neoformans enlarges by distal growth and is rearranged during budding

Mol Microbiol. 2006 Jan;59(1):67-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2005.04928.x.


The capsule of Cryptococcus neoformans can undergo dramatic enlargement, a phenomenon associated with virulence. A prior study that used Ab to the capsule as a marker for older capsular material concluded that capsule growth involved the intermixing of new and old capsular material with displacement of older capsular polysaccharide towards the surface. Here we have revisited that question using complement (C), which binds to capsular polysaccharide covalently, and cannot redistribute by dissociation and binding at different sites. The experimental approach involved binding of C to cells with small capsules, inducing capsule growth, and following the location of C relative to the cell wall as the capsule enlarged. C remained close to the cell wall during capsule growth, indicating that capsule enlargement occurred by addition of new polysaccharide near the capsule edge. This conclusion was confirmed by an independent method that employed radioactive metabolic labelling of newly synthesized capsule with 3H-mannose followed by gradual capsular stripping with gamma-radiation. Capsule growth proceeded to a certain size, which was a function of cell size, and was not degraded when the cells were transferred to a non-inducing medium. During budding, an opening appeared in the capsule of the mother cell that permitted the nascent bud to separate. Scanning EM suggested that a physical separation formed between the capsules of the mother and daughter cells during budding, which may avoid mixture between both capsules. Our results indicate that C. neoformans capsular enlargement also occurs by apical growth and that budding results in capsular rearrangements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Capsules / chemistry
  • Bacterial Capsules / metabolism*
  • Cell Line
  • Complement System Proteins / metabolism
  • Cryptococcus neoformans / cytology*
  • Cryptococcus neoformans / growth & development*
  • Cryptococcus neoformans / pathogenicity
  • Models, Biological
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial*
  • Protein Binding


  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial
  • Complement System Proteins