The ability of fungi to transition between unicellular and multicellular growth has a profound impact on our health and the economy. Many important fungal pathogens of humans, animals, and plants are dimorphic, and the ability to switch between morphological states has been associated with their virulence. Cryptococcus neoformans is a human fungal pathogen that causes life-threatening meningoencephalitis in immunocompromised and, in some cases, immunocompetent hosts. Cryptococcus neoformans grows vegetatively as a budding yeast and switches to hyphal growth during the sexual cycle, which is important in the study of cryptococcal pathogenicity because spores resulting from sexual development are infectious propagules and can colonize the lungs of a host. In addition, sexual reproduction contributes to the genotypic variability of Cryptococcus species, which may lead to increased fitness and virulence. Despite significant advances in our understanding of the mechanisms behind the development of C. neoformans, our knowledge is still incomplete. Recent studies have led to the emergence of many intriguing questions and hypotheses. In this review, we describe and discuss the most interesting aspects of C. neoformans development and address their impact on pathogenicity.
© 2011 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.