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Annu Rev Microbiol. 2009;63:223-47. doi: 10.1146/annurev.micro.62.081307.162753.

How sweet it is! Cell wall biogenesis and polysaccharide capsule formation in Cryptococcus neoformans.

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Department of Molecular Microbiology, Washington University Medical School, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.


Cryptococcus neoformans is a pathogenic fungus responsible for severe opportunistic infections. The most prominent feature of this yeast is its elaborate polysaccharide capsule, a complex structure that is required for virulence. The capsule is intimately associated with the cell wall, which underlies the capsule and offers the organism strength and flexibility in potentially hostile environments. Both structures are primarily composed of polysaccharides, offering a glimpse of the tremendous variation inherent in natural carbohydrate structures and their multiple biological functions. The steps in cell wall and capsule biosynthesis and assembly pose fascinating questions of metabolism, enzymology, cell biology, and regulation; the answers have potential application to treatment of a deadly infection. This article reviews current knowledge of cryptococcal cell wall and capsule biosynthesis and outstanding questions for the future.

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