Pigment production on L-tryptophan medium by Cryptococcus gattii and Cryptococcus neoformans.

Research paper by Stuart S Chaskes, Michael M Cammer, Edward E Nieves, Arturo A Casadevall

Indexed on: 17 Apr '14Published on: 17 Apr '14Published in: PloS one


In recent years strains previously grouped within Cryptococcus neoformans have been divided into two species C. neoformans and C. gattii, with Cryptococcus neoformans comprising serotypes A, D, and AD and C. gattii comprising serotypes B and C. Cryptococcus neoformans have also been subdivided into two varieties C. neoformans var. grubii, serotype A, and C. neoformans var. neoformans, serotype D. We analyzed the growth and pigment production characteristics of 139 strains of Cryptococcus spp. in L-tryptophan containing media. Nearly all strains of Cryptococcus, including each variety and serotype tested produced a pink water-soluble pigment (molecular weight of 535.2 Da) from L-tryptophan. Consequently, the partial separation of the species was based on whether the pink pigment was secreted into the medium (extracellular) or retained as an intracellular pigment. On L-tryptophan medium C. neoformans var. grubii and serotype AD produced a pink extracellular pigment. In contrast, for C. gattii, the pink pigment was localized intracellularly and masked by heavy production of brown pigments. Pigment production by C. neoformans var. neoformans was variable with some strains producing the pink extracellular pigment and others retained the pink pigment intracellularly. The pink intracellular pigment produced by strains of C. neoformans var. neoformans was masked by production of brown pigments. Cryptococcus laccase mutants failed to produce pigments from L-tryptophan. This is the first report that the enzyme laccase is involved in tryptophan metabolism. Prior to this report Cryptococcus laccase produced melanin or melanin like-pigments from heterocyclic compounds that contained ortho or para diphenols, diaminobenzenes and aminophenol compounds. The pigments produced from L-tryptophan were not melanin.