Exploring Cryptococcus neoformans capsule structure and assembly with a hydroxylamine-armed fluorescent probe

Conor J. Crawford, Radamés J.B. Cordero, Lorenzo Guazzelli, Maggie P. Wear, Anthony Bowen, Stefan Oscarson, Arturo Casadevall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chemical biology is an emerging field that allows the study and manipulation of biological systems using probes that inform on structure based on their reactivity. We report the synthesis of a hydroxylamine-armed fluorescent probe that reacts with reducing glycans and its application to study the architecture of the Cryptococcus neoformans capsule under a variety of conditions. The probe signal localized intracellularly and at the cell wall-membrane interface, implying the presence of reducing end glycans at this location where the capsule attachment to the cell body occurs. In contrast, there was no fluorescence signal in the body of the capsule. We observed vesicle-like structures containing the reducing-end probe, both intra- and extracellularly, consistent with the importance of vesicles in capsular assembly. Disrupting the capsule with DMSO, ultrasound, or mechanical shear-stress resulted in capsule alterations that affected the binding of the probe as reducing ends were exposed, and cell membrane integrity was compromised. In contrast to the polysaccharides in the assembled capsule, isolated exopolysaccharides contained reducing ends. The reactivity of the hydroxylamine-armed fluorescent probe suggests a model for capsule assembly where reducing ends localize to the cell wall surface, supporting previous work suggesting that this is an initiation point for capsular assembly. Chemical biology is a promising approach for studying the C. neoformans capsule and its associated polysaccharides.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Dec 11 2019


  • Aminooxy fluorescent probes
  • Biosynthesis
  • Capsule
  • Chemical biology
  • Glucuronoxylomannan
  • Polysaccharide
  • Reducing glycans
  • Vesicles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)

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