Pathogens reduce immune recognition of their cell surfaces using a variety of inert structural polysaccharides. For example, capsular polysaccharides play critical roles in microbial survival strategies. Capsules are widely distributed among bacterial species, but relatively rare in eukaryotic microorganisms, where they have evolved considerable complexity in structure and regulation and are exemplified by that of the HIV/AIDS-related fungus Cryptococcus neoformans
. Endemic fungi that affect normal hosts such as Histoplasma capsulatum
and Blastomyces dermatitidis
have also evolved protective polysaccharide coverings in the form of immunologically inert α-(1,3)-glucan polysaccharides to protect their more immunogenic β-(1,3)-glucan-containing cell walls. In this review we provide a comparative update on bacterial and fungal capsular structures and immunogenic properties as well as the polysaccharide masking strategies of endemic fungal pathogens.
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