DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2315733121 ISSN: 0027-8424

The structure of a Cryptococcus neoformans polysaccharide motif recognized by protective antibodies: A combined NMR and MD study

Audra A. Hargett, Hugo F. Azurmendi, Conor J. Crawford, Maggie P. Wear, Stefan Oscarson, Arturo Casadevall, Darón I. Freedberg
  • Multidisciplinary

Cryptococcus neoformans is a fungal pathogen responsible for cryptococcosis and cryptococcal meningitis. The C. neoformans ’ capsular polysaccharide and its shed exopolysaccharide function both as key virulence factors and to protect the fungal cell from phagocytosis. Currently, a glycoconjugate of these polysaccharides is being explored as a vaccine to protect against C. neoformans infection. In this study, NOE and J -coupling values from NMR experiments were consistent with a converged structure of the synthetic decasaccharide, GXM10-Ac 3 , calculated from MD simulations. GXM10-Ac 3 was designed as an extension of glucuronoxylomannan (GXM) polysaccharide motif (M2) which is common in the clinically predominant serotype A strains and is recognized by protective forms of GXM-specific monoclonal antibodies. The M2 motif is a hexasaccharide with a three-residue α-mannan backbone, modified by β-(1→2)-xyloses (Xyl) on the first two mannoses (Man) and a β-(1→2)-glucuronic acid (GlcA) on the third Man. Combined NMR and MD analyses reveal that GXM10-Ac 3 adopts an extended structure, with Xyl/GlcA branches alternating sides along the α-mannan backbone. O -acetyl esters also alternate sides and are grouped in pairs. MD analysis of a twelve M2-repeating unit polymer supports the notion that the GXM10-Ac 3 structure is uniformly represented throughout the polysaccharide. This derived GXM model displays high flexibility while maintaining a structural identity, yielding insights to further explore intermolecular interactions between polysaccharides, interactions with anti-GXM mAbs, and the cryptococcal polysaccharide architecture.

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