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Eukaryot Cell. 2002 Oct;1(5):704-18.

Mating-type locus of Cryptococcus neoformans: a step in the evolution of sex chromosomes.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


The sexual development and virulence of the fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans is controlled by a bipolar mating system determined by a single locus that exists in two alleles, alpha and a. The alpha and a mating-type alleles from two divergent varieties were cloned and sequenced. The C. neoformans mating-type locus is unique, spans >100 kb, and contains more than 20 genes. MAT-encoded products include homologs of regulators of sexual development in other fungi, pheromone and pheromone receptors, divergent components of a MAP kinase cascade, and other proteins with no obvious function in mating. The alpha and a alleles of the mating-type locus have extensively rearranged during evolution and strain divergence but are stable during genetic crosses and in the population. The C. neoformans mating-type locus is strikingly different from the other known fungal mating-type loci, sharing features with the self-incompatibility systems and sex chromosomes of algae, plants, and animals. Our study establishes a new paradigm for mating-type loci in fungi with implications for the evolution of cell identity and self/nonself recognition.

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