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Sexual reproduction of human fungal pathogens

Heitman, Joseph; Carter, Dee A.; Dyer, Paul S.; Soll, David R.

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Joseph Heitman

Dee A. Carter

Paul S. Dyer

David R. Soll


We review here recent advances in our understanding of sexual reproduction in fungal pathogens that commonly infect humans, including Candida albicans, Cryptococcus neoformans/gattii, and Aspergillus fumigatus. Where appropriate or relevant, we introduce findings on other species associated with human infections. In particular, we focus on rapid advances involving genetic, genomic, and population genetic approaches that have reshaped our view of how fungal pathogens evolve. Rather than being asexual, mitotic, and largely clonal, as was thought to be prevalent as recently as a decade ago, we now appreciate that the vast majority of pathogenic fungi have retained extant sexual, or parasexual, cycles. In some examples, sexual and parasexual unions of pathogenic fungi involve closely related individuals, generating diversity in the population but with more restricted recombination than expected from fertile, sexual, outcrossing and recombining populations. In other cases, species and isolates participate in global outcrossing populations with the capacity for considerable levels of gene flow. These findings illustrate general principles of eukaryotic pathogen emergence with relevance for other fungi, parasitic eukaryotic pathogens, and both unicellular and multicellular eukaryotic organisms.


Heitman, J., Carter, D. A., Dyer, P. S., & Soll, D. R. (in press). Sexual reproduction of human fungal pathogens. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine, 4(8), Article a019281.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 1, 2014
Online Publication Date Aug 5, 2014
Deposit Date Jul 25, 2016
Publicly Available Date Jul 25, 2016
Journal Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine
Electronic ISSN 2157-1422
Publisher Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 4
Issue 8
Article Number a019281
Public URL
Publisher URL
Contract Date Jul 25, 2016


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