The polysaccharide capsule of fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans is a critical virulence factor that has historically evaded characterization. Polysaccharides remain attached to the cell as capsular polysaccharide (CPS) or are shed into the surroundings in the form of exopolysaccharide (EPS). While a great deal of study has been done examining the properties of EPS, far less is known about CPS. In this work, we detail the development of new physical and enzymatic methods for the isolation of CPS which can be used to explore the architecture of the capsule and removed capsular material. Sonication and glucanex digestion yield soluble CPS preparations, while French Press and modified glucanex digestion plus vortexing remove the capsule and cell wall producing polysaccharide aggregates that we call ‘capsule ghosts.’ The existence of capsule ghosts implies an inherent organization that allows it to exist independent of the cell wall surface. As sonication and glucanex digestion were noncytotoxic, it was possible to observe the cryptococcal cells rebuilding their capsule, revealing new insights into capsule architecture and synthesis consistent with a model in which the capsule is assembled from smaller polymers, which are then assemble into larger ones.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.11.15.468433