Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Sexual Revealing

Genes involved in regulating reproduction of human-infecting fungi present potential targets for treatment

09 January 2019

Sexual Revealing

Fungi aren’t sexy, but for some species, like the meningitis-causing Cryptococcus neoformans, sex is the secret to their success. Sexual reproduction combines material from two separate strains, providing ever-increasing genetic diversity, which helps them quickly develop resistance to drugs. A key part of this reproduction is producing spores, which help the fungus spread and survive between infections. Spores are made when the basidium [the spore-making cell] matures, and following meiosis, a process which mixes genetic information. Both of these steps are necessary, so discovering how they coordinate might help halt progress. New research has identified two genes, CSA1 and CSA2, regulating the parallel processes. When either of these genes are silenced, the natural spore production (clearly visible in the normal fungus, left), can’t proceed (right). By revealing the details of this microscopic mating, the research has identified a new potential target for treatments looking to cool down the fungal fornication.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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