Cell surface analysis of the basidiomycete yeast cryptococcus neoformans

  • Alexander J. Foster

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Cell surface properties of the basidiomycete yeast Cryptococcus neoformans were investigated with a combination of novel and well proven approaches. Non-specific cell adhesion forces, as well as exposed carbohydrate and protein moieties potentially associated with specific cellular interaction, were analysed. Experimentation and analysis employed cryptococcal cells of different strains, capsular status and culture age.
Investigation of cellular charge by particulate microelectrophoresis revealed encapsulated yeast forms of C. neoformans manifest a distinctive negative charge regardless of the age of cells involved; in turn, the neutral charge of acapsulate yeasts confirmed that the polysaccharide capsule, and not the cell wall, was responsible for this occurrence. Hydrophobicity was measured by MATH and HICH techniques, as well as by the attachment of polystyrene microspheres. All three techniques, where applicable, found C. neoformans yeast to be consistently hydrophilic; this state varied little regardless of strain and culture age.
Cell surface carbohydrates and protein were investigated with novel fluorescent tagging protocols, flow cytometry and confocal microscopy. Cell surface carbohydrate was identified by controlled oxidation in association with biotin hydrazide and fluorescein-streptavidin tagging. Marked amounts of carbohydrate were measured and observed on the cell wall surface of cryptococcal yeasts. Furthermore, tagging of carbohydrates with selective fluorescent lectins supported the identification, measurement and observation of substantial amounts of mannose, glucose and N-acetyl-glucosamine. Cryptococcal cell surface protein was identified using sulfo-NHS-biotin with fluorescein-streptavidin, and then readily quantified by flow cytometry. Confocal imaging of surface exposed carbohydrate and protein revealed common localised areas of vivid fluorescence associated with buds, bud scars and nascent daughter cells. Carbohydrate and protein fluorescence often varied between strains, culture age and capsule status of cells examined. Finally, extension of protein tagging techniques resulted in the isolation and extraction of two biotinylated proteins from the yeast cell wall surface of an acapsulate strain of C.neoformans.
Date of AwardMay 2004
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorStephen N Smith (Supervisor)


  • Hydrophobicity
  • charge
  • lectin
  • biotin

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