Variation in cell surface hydrophobicity among Cryptococcus neoformans strains influences interactions with amoebas

Raghav Vij, Carina Danchik, Conor Crawford, Quigly Dragotakes, Arturo Casadevall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii are pathogenic fungi that cause significant morbidity and mortality. Cell surface hydrophobicity (CSH) is a biophysical parameter that influences the adhesion of fungal cells or spores to biotic and abiotic surfaces. C. neoformans is encased by polysaccharide capsule that is highly hydrophilic and is a critical determinant of virulence. In this study, we report large differences in the CSH of some C. neoformans and C. gattii strains. The capsular polysaccharides of C. neoformans strains differ in repeating motifs and therefore vary in the number of hydroxyl groups, which, along with higher-order structure of the capsule, may contribute to the variation in hydrophobicity that we observed. We found that cell wall composition, in the context of chitin-chitosan content, does not influence CSH. For C. neoformans, CSH correlated with phagocytosis by natural soil predator Acanthamoeba castellanii. Furthermore, capsular binding of the protective antibody (18B7), but not the nonprotective antibody (13F1), altered the CSH of C. neoformans strains. Variability in CSH could be an important characteristic in comparing the biological properties of cryptococcal strains. IMPORTANCE The interaction of a microbial cell with its environment is influenced by the biophysical properties of a cell. The affinity of the cell surface for water, defined by the cell surface hydrophobicity (CSH), is a biophysical parameter that varies among different strains of Cryptococcus neoformans. The CSH influences the phagocytosis of the yeast by its natural predator in the soil, the amoeba. Studying variation in biophysical properties like CSH gives us insight into the dynamic host-predator interaction and hostpathogen interaction in a damage-response framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00310-20
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Acanthamoeba castellanii
  • Capsular antibody
  • Cell surface hydrophobicity (CSH)
  • Cryptococcus gattii
  • Cryptococcus neoformans
  • Polysaccharide capsule

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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