Quantitation of Purines from Pigeon Guano and Implications for Cryptococcus neoformans Survival During Infection

  • Jessica L. Chitty
  • David J. Edwards
  • Avril A. B. Robertson
  • Mark S. Butler
  • John A. Duley
  • Matthew A. Cooper
  • James A. FraserEmail author
Original Paper


The fertilizing properties of bird manure, or guano, have played an important role in plant cultivation for thousands of years. Research into its chemical composition by Unger in 1846 identified a novel compound, now known as guanine, a purine base that is essential for DNA and RNA biosynthesis and cell signalling. Nitrogen-rich guano can also harbour human pathogens, one significant example being the fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. Historically associated with pigeon droppings, C. neoformans is able to infect immunocompromised individuals with the aid of a number of adaptive virulence traits. To gain insight into this niche, a quantitative analysis of pigeon guano was performed by LC/MS to determine the concentrations of purines present. Guanine was found in abundance, in particular, in aged guano samples that contained 156–296 μg/g [w/w] compared to 75 μg/g in fresh guano. Adenine concentrations were more consistent between fresh and aged samples, 13 μg/g compared to 10–15 μg/g, respectively. C. neoformans strains that lack key enzymes of the de novo purine synthesis pathway and are guanine or adenine auxotrophs displayed differences in their ability to exploit this substrate: growth of a guanine auxotrophic mutant (gua1Δ) was partially restored on 30% pigeon guano media, but an adenine auxotrophic mutant (ade13Δ) was unable to grow. We conclude that while purine salvage is likely a useful resource-saving mechanism, alone it is not sufficient to fully provide the purines required by wild-type C. neoformans growing in its guano niche.


Cryptococcus neoformans Purines Pigeon guano Adenine Guanine 



We thank Gary Newell of the Queensland Racing Pigeon Federation, Inc., for the provision of pigeon guano.


This study was funded by National Health and Medical Research Council, Project Grant APP1049716.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11046_2018_315_MOESM1_ESM.docx (976 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 975 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica L. Chitty
    • 1
    • 2
  • David J. Edwards
    • 2
  • Avril A. B. Robertson
    • 2
  • Mark S. Butler
    • 2
  • John A. Duley
    • 3
  • Matthew A. Cooper
    • 1
    • 2
  • James A. Fraser
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre, School of Chemistry and Molecular BiosciencesThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  2. 2.Institute for Molecular BioscienceThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  3. 3.School of PharmacyThe University of QueenslandWoolloongabbaAustralia

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