Cell envelope integrity and capsule characterization of Rhodotorula mucilaginosa strains from clinical and environmental sources

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Rhodotorula yeasts are pink, encapsulated basidiomycetes isolated from a variety of environments and clinical settings. They are increasingly linked with disease, particularly central venous catheter infections and meningitis, in immunocompromised patients. Eight clinical and eight environmental strains molecularly typed as Rhodotorula mucilaginosa were compared to six Cryptococcus neoformans strains for phenotypic variability. Growth on cell integrity-challenging media suggested that R. mucilaginosa cells possess differences in signaling pathways, cell wall composition, or assembly and that their membranes are more susceptible to perturbations than those of C. neoformans. All 16 R. mucilaginosa strains produced urease, while none produced melanin with L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA) as a substrate. India ink staining reveals that clinical R. mucilaginosa capsules are larger than environmental capsules but that both are generally smaller than C. neoformans capsules. All R. mucilaginosa strains were resistant to fluconazole. Only two clinical strains were susceptible to voriconazole; all of the environmental strains were resistant. We generated an anticapsular antibody (Rh1) to R. mucilaginosa; Rh1 did not bind C. neoformans control strains, was specific to Rhodotorula species, and bound to all tested Rhodotorula strains. Binding assays performed with wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), concanavalin A (ConA), calcofluor white (CFW), and eosin Y dye (EY) cell surface probes suggested that chitin may be more accessible in R. mucilaginosa but that the total abundance of chitooligomers is less than in C. neoformans. This report describes a novel reagent that can be used to identify Rhodotorula species and lays the foundation for future cell envelope composition analysis.



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