Summary: The nematophagous fungus captures nematodes using adhesive polymers present on special hyphae (traps) which form a three-dimensional network. To understand further the adhesion mechanisms, surface polymers were visualized by transmisson electron microscopy and characterized by chemical methods. Both traps and hyphae were surrounded by a fibrillar layer of extracellular polymers which stained with ruthenium red. The polymer layer was resistant to most of the chemicals and enzymes tested. However, part of the layer was removed by sonication in a Tris-buffer or by extraction in a chaotropic salt solution (LiCl), and the structure of the polymers was modified by treatment with Pronase E. Chemical analysis showed that the crude extracts of surface polymers removed by sonication or LiCl solution contained neutral sugars, uronic acids and proteins. Gel chromatography of the extracts revealed that the major carbohydrate-containing polymer(s) had a molecular mass of at least 100 kDa, containing neutral sugars (75% by weight, including glucose, mannose and galactose), uronic acids (6%) and proteins (19%). There was more polymer in mycelium containing trap-bearing cells than in vegetative hyphae. SDS-PAGE of the extracted polymers showed that the trap-forming cells contained at least one protein, with a molecular mass of approx. 32 kDa, not present on vegetative hyphae. Examining the capture of nematodes by traps of in which the layer of surface polymers was modified, or removed by chemical or enzymic treatments, showed that both proteins and carbohydrate surface polymers were involved in the adhesion process.


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