Characterization of phenotypic switching in Cryptococcus neoformans biofilms

Luis R. Martinez, David C. Ibom, Arturo Casadevall, Bettina C. Fries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Cryptococcus neoformans is an encapsulated yeast-like fungus that is a relatively frequent cause of meningoencephalitis in immunocompromised patients and also occasionally causes disease in apparently healthy individuals. This fungus collectively forms biofilms on polystyrene plates and medical devices, whereas individually can undergo phenotypic switching. Both events have profound consequences in the establishment of fungal infection and are associated with persistent infection due to increase resistance to antimicrobial therapy. In this study, we characterized switch phenotypes in C. neoformans biofilms. Smooth, mucoid, and wrinkled switch phenotypes of various switching C. neoformans strains were examined for their adhering and biofilm-forming ability on 96-well plates using cell counts and 2,3-bis (2-methoxy-4-nitro-5- sulfophenyl)-5-[(phenylamino) carbonyl]-2H-tetrazolium hydroxide (XTT) reduction assay, respectively. Both assays showed that C. neoformans strains with the parent smooth phenotype adhered and formed stronger biofilms than their mucoid and wrinkled counterparts. Furthermore, the phenotypic switching frequencies of the individual colony types grown in biofilms or as planktonic cells were investigated. For the parent smooth variant of most strains, we found enhanced phenotypic switching in cryptococcal biofilms when compared to switching rates of planktonic cells. In contrast, the back-switching rate of mucoid to smooth variant was significantly higher in planktonic cells of seven strains of C. neoformans strains. These results suggested that phenotypic switching can occur in cryptococcal biofilms and extend our understanding of the relationship of both phenomena.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-180
Number of pages6
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Biofilms
  • Fungi
  • Morphology
  • Phenotypic switching
  • Planktonic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • veterinary (miscalleneous)


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