- Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii are two species complexes in the large fungal genus Cryptococcus and are responsible for potentially lethal disseminated infections. These two complexes share several phenotypic traits, such as production of the protective compound melanin. In C. neoformans, the pigment associates with key cellular constituents that are essential for melanin deposition within the cell wall. Consequently, melanization is modulated by changes in cell-wall composition or ultrastructure.
- Melanin pigments protect against both ionizing radiation and free radicals and have potential soil remediation capabilities. Eumelanins produced by pathogenic Cryptococcus neoformans fungi are virulence factors that render the fungal cells resistant to host defenses and certain antifungal drugs. Because of their insoluble and amorphous characteristics, neither the pigment bonding framework nor the cellular interactions underlying melanization of C. neoformans have yielded to comprehensive molecular-scale investigation.