Fungal diseases have become increasingly important in the past few years. Because few fungi are professional pathogens, fungal pathogenic mechanisms tend to be highly complex, arising in large part from adaptations of preexisting characteristics of the organisms' nonparasitic lifestyles. In the past few years, genetic approaches have elucidated many fungal virulence factors, and increasing knowledge of host reactions has also clarified much about fungal diseases. The literature on fungal pathogenesis has grown correspondingly; this review, therefore, will not attempt to provide comprehensive coverage of fungal disease but focuses on properties of the infecting fungus and interactions with the host. These topics have been chosen to make the review most useful to two kinds of readers: fungal geneticists and molecular biologists who are interested in learning about the biological problems posed by infectious diseases, and physicians who want to know the kinds of basic approaches available to study fungal virulence.