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Journal of Structural Biology: X


Fungal infections cause high mortality in immunocompromised individuals, which has emerged as a significant threat to human health. The efforts devoted to the development of antifungal agents targeting the cell wall polysaccharides have been hindered by our incomplete picture of the assembly and remodeling of fungal cell walls. High-resolution solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (ss NMR) studies have substantially revised our understanding of the polymorphic structure of polysaccharides and the nanoscale organization of cell walls in Aspergillus fumigatus and multiple other fungi. However, this approach requires 13C/15N-enrichment of the sample being studied, severely restricting its application. Here we employ the dynamic nuclear polarization (DNP) technique to compare the unlabeled cell wall materials of A. fumigatus and C. albicans prepared using both liquid and solid media. For each fungus, we have identified a highly conserved carbohydrate core for the cell walls of conidia and mycelia, and from liquid and solid cultures. Using samples prepared in different media, the recently identified function of α-glucan, which packs with chitin to form the mechanical centers, has been confirmed through conventional ss NMR measurements of polymer dynamics. These timely efforts not only validate the structural principles recently discovered for A. fumigatus cell walls in different morphological stages, but also open up the possibility of extending the current investigation to other fungal materials and cellular systems that are challenging to label.

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