The genus Pneumocystis encompasses fungal species that colonize mammals’ lungs with host specificity. Should the host immune system weaken, the fungal species can cause severe pneumonia. The life cycle of these pathogens is poorly known, mainly because an in vitro culture method has not been established. Both asexual and sexual cycles would occur. Trophic cells, the predominant forms during infection, could multiply asexually but also enter into a sexual cycle. Comparative genomics revealed a single mating type locus, including plus and minus genes, suggesting that primary homothallism involving self-fertility of each strain is the mode of reproduction of Pneumocystis species. We identified and analyzed the expression of the mam2 and map3 genes encoding the receptors for plus and minus pheromones using reverse transcriptase PCR, in both infected mice and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid samples from patients with Pneumocystis pneumonia. Both receptors were most often concomitantly expressed during infection, revealing that both pheromone-receptor systems are involved in the sexual cycle. The map3 transcripts were subject to alternative splicing. Using immunostaining, we investigated the presence of the pheromone receptors at the surfaces of Pneumocystis cells from a patient. The staining tools were first assessed in Saccharomyces cerevisiae displaying the Pneumocystis receptors at their cellular surface. Both receptors were present at the surfaces of the vast majority of the cells that were likely trophic forms. The receptors might have a role in mate recognition and/or postfertilization events. Their presence at the cell surface might facilitate outbreeding versus inbreeding of selffertile strains.
- Opportunistic fungi