The pathogenesis of Cryptococcus neoformans infection has been studied extensively with respect to inflammatory and pathological changes, but very little information is available regarding the morphology of yeast cells during the course of infection. Electron microscopy of Cryptococcus neoformans in murine pulmonary infection revealed increased cell wall thickness with time, but this difference was only partially accounted for by increases in cell diameter. Cell walls of melanized cells were thicker than those of nonmelanized cells 2 h after infection, and the cell wall of yeast became blacker with time, suggesting that melanization contributes to the increased cell wall thickness. Heterogeneous cell populations emerged, with the appearance of giant forms. While for C. neoformans ATCC strain 24067 (serotype D) the full spectrum of cell sizes were observed, for strains H99 (serotype A) and 3501 (serotype D) cells were divisible into two populations, giant and micro forms. In contrast to cellular heterogeneity, the epitope recognized by a protective mAb on the capsular glucuronoxylomannan (GXM) was found at all times of infection. Immunoelectron microscopy using mAbs to GXM demonstrated reactivity with intracellular structures, suggesting that synthesis of capsular polysaccharide occurs, at least in part, in the cytoplasm. In summary, the results indicate that: (i) the infection is dynamic with respect to yeast cell morphology; (ii) giant cell forms arise in tissue during the course of infection; (iii) cell walls blacken and thicken during the course of infection, consistent with melanin synthesis during infection; and (iv) GXM epitopes are found in the capsule, cell wall and cytoplasm, consistent with intracellular polysaccharide synthesis. The results indicate that the population of C. neoformans cells in tissue is in a highly dynamic state, implying that the immune system must confront cells with varying characteristics during the course of infection.
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