Genetic differentiation, recombination and clonal expansion in environmental populations of Cryptococcus gattii in India
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Cryptococcus gattii is a ubiquitous eukaryotic pathogen capable of causing life-threatening infections in a wide variety of hosts, including both immunocompromised and immunocompetent humans. Since infections by C. gattii are predominantly obtained from environmental exposures, understanding environmental populations of this pathogen is critical, especially in countries like India with a large population and with environmental conditions conducive for the growth of C. gattii. In this study, we analysed 109 isolates of C. gattii obtained from hollows of nine tree species from eight geographic locations in India. Multilocus sequence typing was conducted for all isolates using nine gene fragments. All 109 isolates belonged to the VGI group and were mating type α. Population genetic analyses revealed limited evidence of recombination but unambiguous evidence for clonal reproduction and expansion. However, the observed clonal expansion has not obscured the significant genetic differentiation among populations from either different geographic areas or different host tree species. A positive correlation was observed between genetic distance and geographic distance. The results obtained here for environmental populations of C. gattii showed both similarities and differences with those of the closely related Cryptococcus neoformans var. grubii from similar locations and host tree species in India.
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