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Eukaryot Cell. 2007 Apr;6(4):630-40. Epub 2007 Mar 2.

Parallel beta-helix proteins required for accurate capsule polysaccharide synthesis and virulence in the yeast Cryptococcus neoformans.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94158-2200, USA.


The principal capsular polysaccharide of the opportunistic fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans consists of an alpha-1,3-linked mannose backbone decorated with a repeating pattern of glucuronyl and xylosyl side groups. This structure is critical for virulence, yet little is known about how the polymer, called glucuronoxylomannan (GXM), is faithfully synthesized and assembled. We have generated deletions in two genes encoding predicted parallel beta-helix repeat proteins, which we have designated PBX1 and PBX2. Deletion of either gene results in a dry-colony morphology, clumpy cells, and decreased capsule integrity. Two-dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy of purified GXM from the mutants indicated that both the wild-type GXM structure and novel, aberrant linkages were present. Carbohydrate composition and linkage analysis determined that these aberrant structures are correlated with the incorporation of terminal glucose residues that are not found in wild-type capsule polysaccharide. We conclude that Pbx1 and Pbx2 are required for the fidelity of GXM synthesis and may be involved in editing incorrectly added glucose residues. PBX1 and PBX2 knockout mutants showed severely attenuated virulence in a murine inhalation model of cryptococcosis. Unlike acapsular strains, these mutant strains induced delayed symptoms of cryptococcosis, though the infected animals eventually contained the infection and recovered.

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