Do major species concepts support one, two or more species within Cryptococcus neoformans?

FEMS Yeast Res. 2006 Jun;6(4):574-87. doi: 10.1111/j.1567-1364.2006.00088.x.


Cryptococcus neoformans, the agent of cryptococcosis, had been considered a homogeneous species until 1949 when the existence of four serotypes was revealed based on the antigenic properties of its polysaccharide capsule. Such heterogeneity of the species, however, remained obscure until the two morphologically distinct teleomorphs of C. neoformans were discovered during the mid 1970s. The teleomorph Filobasidiella neoformans was found to be produced by strains of serotype A and D, and Filobasidiella bacillispora was found to be produced by strains of serotype B and C. Ensuing studies revealed numerous differences between the anamorphs of the two Filobasidiella species with regard to their ecology, epidemiology, pathobiology, biochemistry and genetics. At present, the etiologic agent of cryptococcosis is classified into two species, C. neoformans (serotypes A and D) and Cryptococcus gattii (serotypes B and C). Intraspecific genetic diversity has also been revealed as more genotyping methods have been applied for each serotype. As a result, the number of scientifically valid species within C. neoformans has become a controversial issue because of the differing opinions among taxonomists as to the appropriate definition of a species. There are three major species concepts that govern classification of organisms: phenetic (morphologic, phenotypic), biologic (interbreeding) and cladistic (evolutionary, phylogenetic). Classification of the two C. neoformans species has been based on the phenetic as well as the biologic species concept, which is also supported by the cladistic species concept. In this paper, we review and attest to the validity of the current two-species system in light of the three major species concepts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cryptococcus neoformans / classification*
  • Cryptococcus neoformans / genetics
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Phylogeny
  • Serotyping
  • Species Specificity