- Melanin is a major virulence factor in pathogenic fungi that enhances the ability of fungal cells to resist immune clearance. Cryptococcus neoformans is an important human pathogenic fungus that synthesizes melanin from exogenous tissue catecholamine precursors during infection, but the type of melanin made in cryptococcal meningoencephalitis is unknown. We analyzed the efficacy of various catecholamines found in brain tissue in supporting melanization using animal brain tissue and synthetic catecholamine mixtures reflecting brain tissue proportions.
- A primary virulence-associated trait of the opportunistic fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans is the production of melanin pigments that are deposited into the cell wall and interfere with the host immune response. Previously, our solid-state NMR studies of isolated melanized cell walls (melanin “ghosts”) revealed that the pigments are strongly associated with lipids, but their identities, origins, and potential roles were undetermined. Herein, we exploited spectral editing techniques to identify and quantify the lipid molecules associated with pigments in melanin ghosts.
- Melanins are synthesized macromolecules that are found in all biological kingdoms. These pigments have a myriad of roles that range from microbial virulence to key components of the innate immune response in invertebrates. Melanins also exhibit unique properties with potential applications in physics and material sciences, ranging from electrical batteries to novel therapeutics. In the fungi, melanins, such as eumelanins, are components of the cell wall that provide protection against biotic and abiotic elements.