During the past few decades, increasing attention has focused on pathogenic fungi both as fascinating research subjects and as the agents of serious illness in diverse patient populations. In particular, opportunistic fungi such as Cryptococcus neoformans command notice as the ranks of their immunocompromised victims grow. C. neoformans is unique among fungal pathogens for its major virulence factor, a complex polysaccharide capsule. In this article, our current understanding of the structure and biosynthesis of the capsule is reviewed, as are the many questions that remain to be answered about how Cryptococcus gets its coat. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.