Cryptococcus depauperatus, a close relative of the human-pathogen C. neoformans, associated with coffee leaf rust (Hemileia vastatrix) in Cameroon
Braz J Microbiol. 2021 Aug 21. doi: 10.1007/s42770-021-00592-2. Online ahead of print.
The genus Cryptococcus is well known for its two species -Cryptococcus neoformans and C. gatii- that are etiological agents of cryptococcosis, an important fungal disease of mammals, including humans, and which is particularly common in immunocompromised patients. Nevertheless, Cryptococcus is a large and widely distributed genus of basidiomycetes occupying a broad range of niches, including mycoparasitism. One such mycoparasitic species is Cryptococcus depauperatus, which was firstly mistakenly described as a pathogen of scale insects under the name Aspergillus depauperatus. The “Aspergillus” conidiophores were later shown to be basidia of a Cryptococcus and the new combination C. depauperatus was proposed. Additionally, instead of an entomopathogen, the fungus was found to be a mycoparasite growing on the entomopathogen Akanthomyces (Lecanicillium) lecanii. Recently, during surveys for mycoparasites of coffee leaf rust (Hemileia vastatrix) in the context of a biocontrol project, white colonies covering rust pustules were observed in Cameroon. Upon close examination, instead of a member of the “white colony forming complex” of Ascomycetes, commonly collected growing on H. vastatrix, such colonies were found to represent a basidiomycete fungus with basidia-bearing chains of basidiospores, typical of the genus Cryptococcus. Morphological and molecular evidence was generated supporting the identification of the fungus on rust pustules as C. depauperatus. This is the first record of C. depauperatus from Africa and of its association with coffee leaf rust.