Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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The Mating Game

Understanding how a serious lung infection-causing fungus reproduces provides insight into how to stop it

20 November 2019

The Mating Game

While humans can use dating apps to find a suitable mate, life isn’t so easy for the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans. The fungal cells have two different genetic mating types, ‘a’ and ‘alpha’, which are very roughly analogous to two sexes in more complex species. Although two cells of the same type can fuse together and produce new offspring, it’s more beneficial for the population if two different cells mate as this leads to more genetic mixing. However, most fungal cells are alpha, making it hard to find an a-type mate. These images show alpha cells on the right-hand side of each picture stretching out long strands (known as hyphae) in search of a-type mates (left). Cryptococcus neoformans causes serious lung infections and can be fatal if it spreads into the brain. Understanding how the fungus reproduces is an important step towards figuring out how to stop infections growing and spreading.

Written by Kat Arney

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