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DURHAM, N.C. (UPI) -- U.S. researchers said a deadly fungus that mates only with members of the same sex is still able to reproduce.
Duke University Medical Center researchers said infection by Cryptococcus neoformans can kill humans, so a better understanding of how the fungus spreads might help counter its lethal power.
In fungus, sexual identity is determined by so-called mating-type loci, genes that are arranged contiguously, but which typically do not span an entire chromosome. C. neoformans has two mating types.
The researchers found C. neoformans uses members of the same "sex" type to mate and produce offspring. The ability may help the fungus spread even if the balance between the sexes is off.
"The findings suggest for the first time that the fungus has developed a novel type of sexual cycle, allowing sexual reproduction between members of the same mating type," said Dr. Joseph Heitman, one of the study investigators.
"That ability might confer an advantage for the fungus because patients infected with it predominantly harbor a single mating type, reducing the possibility of normal fungal sexual reproduction," Heitman said.
A description of the findings appears in the April 21 issue of Nature.