Serial isolates of Cryptococcus neoformans from patients with chronic infection can exhibit minor karyotype changes as a result of chromosome length polymorphism (CLP). This study investigated whether serial C. neoformans isolates with CLP from 4 patients with AIDS exhibited biologic and phenotypic differences. CLP permits the identification of serial isolates in murine mixed infection. The parameters studied were virulence in mice, capsule size, colony morphology, melanization, protease production, MICs of antifungal drugs, and growth rates in vitro. Two parameters of virulence in mice were studied: persistence in tissue and survival time after lethal infection. Serial C. neoformans isolates were shown to differ in ability to persist in vivo, virulence in a murine infection model, in vitro growth rates at 37 degreesC, and capsule size. Melanin and protease production and MICs of antifungal drugs were comparable for serial isolates. These observations suggest microevolution of C. neoformans during human infection. This process may allow the fungal population to change, escape eradication by the immune system, and thus cause chronic infections.