Infection and immunity

Cryptococcus neoformans cells in biofilms are less susceptible than planktonic cells to antimicrobial molecules produced by the innate immune system.

PMID 17057089


The human pathogenic fungus Cryptococcus neoformans can form biofilms on polystyrene plates and medical devices in a process that requires capsular polysaccharide release. Although biofilms are known to be less susceptible to antimicrobial drugs, little is known about their susceptibility to antimicrobial molecules produced by the innate immune system. In this study, we investigated the susceptibility of C. neoformans cells in biofilm and planktonic states to oxidative and nonoxidative antimicrobial molecules produced by phagocytic cells. The effects of various immune effector molecules on the fungal mass, metabolic activity, and architecture of C. neoformans biofilms were measured by colony counts, 2,3-bis(2-methoxy-4-nitro-5-sulfophenyl)-5-[(phenylamino) carbonyl]-2H-tetrazolium hydroxide reduction, and confocal microscopy, respectively. Biofilms were more resistant than planktonic cells to oxidative stress but remained vulnerable to cationic antimicrobial peptides. However, melanized biofilms were significantly less susceptible to antimicrobial peptides than nonmelanized biofilms. These results suggest that the biofilm phenotype increases resistance against host immune mechanisms, a phenomenon that could contribute to the ability of biofilm-forming microbes to establish persistent infections.