The intergenic spacers (IGS) separating the 23S-like and 16S-like rDNAs of the two varieties of the human pathogenic fungus Cryptococcus neoformans were amplified, cloned and sequenced. The C. neoformans var. neoformans IGS was 2421 nt with 5S rRNA at positions 1228-1345 3' of the 23S-like rRNA. The C. neoformans var. gattii IGS was 2480 nt with 5S rRNA at positions 1268-1385 3' of the 23S-like rRNA. For both varieties the 5S rDNA genes were in the same orientation as the 16S-5.8-23S genes and encode a 118 nt molecule of identical sequence. Phylogenetic comparison of C. neoformans 5S rDNA with that of other fungi placed this fungus in close relationship with other basidiomycetes including Tremella mesenterica, Bullera alba, and Cryptococcus laurentii. A secondary structure model for the deduced 5S rRNA was constructed by comparative sequence analysis. Polymerase chain reaction-amplified IGS of 12 C. neoformans var. neoformans strains revealed extensive size variation ranging from 100 to 300 nt. Size variation between strains in the length of the IGS may be useful for distinguishing strains. Structurally, the IGS were characterized by the presence of occasional short direct GC-rich 19-nt repeats. Overall IGS sequence identity between the C. neoformans varieties was only 78.5%, in sharp contrast to the identical or nearly identical sequences for the rDNA genes, and suggests rapid evolution for IGS sequences.