Cryptococcus neoformans is a pathogenic fungus that produces melanin when incubated in the presence of certain phenolic substrates such as L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-dopa). Melanin is an enigmatic polymer that is deposited in the cell wall and contributes to virulence. Substantial progress has been made in understanding the synthesis of melanin and the mechanisms by which it contributes to virulence, but relatively little is known about how melanin is rearranged during growth and budding. In this study we used transmission and scanning electron microscopy and immunofluorescence of melanized cells and melanin 'ghosts' to study the process of melanization during replication. Budding in melanized C. neoformans results in focal disruption of cell-wall melanin at the bud site. In the presence of L-dopa, bud-related melanin defects are repaired and daughter cells are melanized. However, in the absence of substrate, mother cells cannot repair their melanin defects and daughter cells are non-melanized. Hence, melanin in the parent cell is not carried to the daughter cells, but rather is synthesized de novo in buds. These results imply that melanin remodelling occurs during cell growth in a process that involves degradation and synthesis at sites of budding.
ASJC Scopus subject areas