Shimizu K, Imanishi Y, Toh-e A, Uno J, Chibana H, Hull CM, Kawamoto S

Fungal Genet Biol. 2014 Aug;69:13–22

Diazobenzoic acid B (DBB), also known as diazonium blue B or fast blue B, can be used to distinguish basidiomycetous yeasts from ascomycetes. This chemical has long been used for the taxonomic study of yeast species at the phylum level, but the mechanism underlying the DBB staining remains unknown. To identify molecular targets of DBB staining, we isolated Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated insertional mutants of Cryptococcus neoformans, a basidiomycetous pathogenic yeast, which were negative to DBB staining. In one of these mutants, we found that the PMT2 gene, encoding a protein-O-mannosyltransferase, was interrupted by a T-DNA insertion. A complete gene knockout of the PMT2 gene revealed that the gene was responsible for DBB staining in C. neoformans, suggesting that one of the targets of Pmt2-mediated glycosylation is responsible for interacting with DBB. We also determined that Cryptococcus gattii, a close relative of C. neoformans, was not stained by DBB when the PMT2 gene was deleted. Our finding suggests that the protein-O-mannosylation by the PMT2 gene product is required for DBB staining in Cryptococcus species in general. We also showed that glycosylation in Cryptococcus by Pmt2 plays important roles in controlling cell size, resistance to high temperature and osmolarity, capsule formation, sexual reproduction, and virulence.