The composition and organization of the cell walls from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Candida albicans, Aspergillus fumigatus, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Neurospora crassa, and Cryptococcus neoformans are compared and contrasted. These cell walls contain chitin, chitosan, β-1,3-glucan, β-1,6-glucan, mixed β-1,3-/β-1,4-glucan, α-1,3-glucan, melanin, and glycoproteins as major constituents. A comparison of these cell walls shows that there is a great deal of variability in fungal cell wall composition and organization. However, in all cases, the cell wall components are cross-linked together to generate a cell wall matrix. The biosynthesis and properties of each of the major cell wall components are discussed. The chitin and glucans are synthesized and extruded into the cell wall space by plasma membrane-associated chitin synthases and glucan synthases. The glycoproteins are synthesized by ER-associated ribosomes and pass through the canonical secretory pathway. Over half of the major cell wall proteins are modified by the addition of a glycosylphosphatidylinositol anchor. The cell wall glycoproteins are also modified by the addition of O-linked oligosaccharides, and their N-linked oligosaccharides are extensively modified during their passage through the secretory pathway. These cell wall glycoprotein posttranslational modifications are essential for cross-linking the proteins into the cell wall matrix. Cross-linking the cell wall components together is essential for cell wall integrity. The activities of four groups of cross-linking enzymes are discussed. Cell wall proteins function as cross-linking enzymes, structural elements, adhesins, and environmental stress sensors and protect the cell from environmental changes.
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