Hybrids and hybridization in the Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii species complexes
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The basidiomycetous yeasts of the Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii species complexes (CNSC and CGSC respectively) are the causative agents of cryptococcosis, a set of life-threatening diseases affecting the central nervous system, lungs, skin, and other body sites of humans and other mammals. Both the CNSC and CGSC can be subdivided into varieties, serotypes, molecular types, and lineages based on structural variations, molecular characteristics and genetic sequences. Hybridization between the haploid lineages within and between the two species complexes is known to occur in natural and clinical settings, giving rise to intraspecific and interspecific diploid/aneuploid hybrid strains. Since their initial discovery in 1977, cryptococcal hybrids have been increasingly discovered in both clinical and environmental settings with over 30% of all cryptococcal infections in some regions of Europe being caused by hybrid strains. This review summarizes the major findings to date on cryptococcal hybrids, including their possible origins, prevalence, genomic profiles and phenotypic characteristics. Our analyses suggest that CNSC and CGSC can be an excellent model system for studying fungal hybridization.
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