Morphological transitions play an important role in virulence and virulence-related processes in a wide variety of pathogenic fungi, including the most commonly isolated human fungal pathogen Candida albicans. While environmental signals, transcriptional regulators, and target genes associated with C. albicans morphogenesis are well-characterized, considerably little is known about morphological regulatory mechanisms and the extent to which they are evolutionarily conserved in less pathogenic and less filamentous non-albicans Candida species (NACS). We have identified specific optimal filament-inducing conditions for three NACS (C. tropicalis, C. parapsilosis, and C. guilliermondii), which are very limited, suggesting that these species may be adapted for niche-specific filamentation in the host. Only a subset of evolutionarily conserved C. albicans filament-specific target genes were induced upon filamentation in C. tropicalis, C. parapsilosis, and C. guilliermondii. One of the genes showing conserved expression was UME6, a key filament-specific regulator of C. albicans hyphal development. Constitutive high-level expression of UME6 was sufficient to drive increased filamentation as well as biofilm formation and partly restore conserved filament-specific gene expression in both C. tropicalis and C. parapsilosis, suggesting that evolutionary differences in filamentation ability among pathogenic Candida species may be partially attributed to alterations in the expression level of a conserved filamentous growth machinery. In contrast to UME6, NRG1, an important repressor of C. albicans filamentation, showed only a partly conserved role in controlling NACS filamentation. Overall, our results suggest that C. albicans morphological regulatory functions are partially conserved in NACS and have evolved to respond to more specific sets of host environmental cues.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology