August 13, 2009

Same-sex, opposite-sex human fungus found

U.S. scientists say they've discovered Candida albicans, a fungus that can make people sick, pursues both same-sex and opposite-sex mating activities.

Brown University researchers said their discovery marks the first time the same-sex mode of reproduction has been identified in Candida albicans, the most common of human fungal pathogens that produces thrush and other diseases.

This discovery really surprised us, said Assistant Professor Richard Bennett. Candida albicans has two mating types "¦ and it was assumed that mating could only occur between these two cell types. We now know that a mechanism exists for same-sex mating, and thus sex could be more prevalent in this species than previously recognized.

Bennett, who led the research with Kevin Alby and Dana Schaefer, said the finding means unisexual reproduction might be important for microbial pathogenesis.

The study is reported in the journal Nature.