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Redistribution of a glucuronoxylomannan epitope towards the capsule surface coincides with Titanisation in the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans

By Mark Probert, Xin Zhou, Margaret Goodall, Simon A Johnston, Ewa Bielska, Elizabeth R. Ballou, Robin C May

Posted 01 Oct 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/431650

Disseminated infections with the fungal species Cryptococcus neoformans or, less frequently, C. gattii, are a leading cause of mortality in immunocompromised individuals. Central to the virulence of both species is an elaborate polysaccharide capsule that consists predominantly of glucuronoxylomannan (GXM). Due to its abundance, GXM is an ideal target for host antibodies, and several monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) have previously been derived using purified GXM or whole capsular preparations as antigen. In addition to their application in the diagnosis of cryptococcosis, anti-GXM mAbs are invaluable tools for studying capsule structure. In this study, we report the production and characterisation of a novel anti-GXM mAb, Crp127, that unexpectedly reveals a role for GXM remodelling during the process of fungal Titanization. We show that Crp127 recognises a GXM epitope in an O-acetylation dependent, but xylosylation-independent, manner. The epitope is differentially expressed by the four main serotypes of Cryptococcus neoformans and gattii, is heterogeneously expressed within clonal populations of C. gattii serotype B strains and is typically confined to the central region of the enlarged capsule. Uniquely, however, this epitope redistributes to the capsular surface in Titan cells, a recently recognised subset of giant fungal cells that are produced in the host lung and are critical for successful infection. Crp127 therefore highlights hitherto unexpected features of cryptococcal morphological change and may hold significant therapeutic potential in differentially identifying cryptococcal strains and subtypes.

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