Alternative Lifestyles of Species in the Fungal Genus Pneumocystis

Pneumocystis Pneumocystis species are ascomycetous fungi that obligatorily dwell with no apparent ill effect in the lungs of normal mammals, but they become pathogenic when host defenses are compromised. Identified more than 100 years ago, these atypical fungi manifest characteristics that are unique within the Fungi, such as the lack of ergosterol, genetic complexity of surface antigens, and antigenic variation. Thought to be confined to the severely immunocompromised host, Pneumocystis spp. are being associated with new population niches owing to the advent of immunomodulatory therapies and increased numbers of patients suffering from chronic diseases. The inability to grow Pneumocystis spp. outside the mammalian lung has thwarted progress toward understanding their basic biology, but via the use of new genetic tools and other strategies, researchers are beginning to uncover their biological and genetic characteristics including a biphasic life cycle, significant metabolic capacities, and modulation of lifestyles. This review describes the alternative lifestyles indulged in by these organisms.

Stealth and opportunism: alternative lifestyles of species in the fungal genus Pneumocystis. Annu Rev Microbiol. 2010 64: 431-452

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