Molecular genetic analyses of mating pheromones reveal intervariety mating or hybridization in Cryptococcus neoformans

Vishnu Chaturvedi, Jinjiang Fan, Birgit Stein, Melissa J. Behr, William A. Samsonoff, Brian L. Wickes, Sudha Chaturvedi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The sexual mating of the pathogenic yeast Cryptococcus neoformans is important for pathogenesis studies because the fungal virulence is linked to the α mating type (MATα). We characterized C. neoformans mating pheromones (MFα 1 and MFa1) from 122 strains to understand intervariety hybridization or mating and intervariety virulence. MFα 1 in three C. neoformans varieties showed (a) specific nucleotide polymorphisms, (b) different copy numbers and chromosomal localizations, and (c) unique deduced amino acids in two geographic populations of C. neoformans var. gattii. MFα 1 of different varieties cross-hybridized in Southern hybridizations. Their phylogenetic analyses showed purifying selection (neutral evolution). These observations suggested that MATα strains from any of the three C. neoformans varieties could mate or hybridize in nature with MATa strains of C. neoformans var. neoformans. A few serotype A/D diploid strains provided evidence for mating or hybridization, while a majority of A/D strains tested positive for haploid MFα 1 identical to that of C. neoformans var. grubii. MFα 1 sequence and copy numbers in diploids were identical to those of C. neoformans var. grubii, while their MFa1 sequences were identical to those of C. neoformans var. neoformans; thus, these strains were hybrids. The mice survival curves and histological lesions revealed A/D diploids to be highly pathogenic, with pathogenicity levels similar to that of the C. neoformans var. grubii type strain and unlike the low pathogenicity levels of C. neoformans var. neoformans strains. In contrast to MFα 1 in three varieties, MFa1 amplicons and hybridization signals could be obtained only from two C. neoformans var. neoformans reference strains and eight A/D diploids. This suggested that a yet undiscovered MFa pheromone(s) in C. neoformans var. gattii and C. neoformans var. grubii is unrelated to, highly divergent from, or rarer than that in C. neoformans var. neoformans. These observations could form the basis for future studies on the role of intervariety mating in C. neoformans biology and virulence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5225-5235
Number of pages11
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology


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