Wilson D, Mayer FL, Miramón P, Citiulo F, Slesiona S, Jacobsen ID, Hube B
Eukaryotic Cell 13 (8) 977-989 [2014-08-00; online 2014-03-13]
Human fungal pathogens are distributed throughout their kingdom, suggesting that pathogenic potential evolved independently. Candida albicans is the most virulent member of the CUG clade of yeasts and a common cause of both superficial and invasive infections. We therefore hypothesized that C. albicans possesses distinct pathogenicity mechanisms. In silico genome subtraction and comparative transcriptional analysis identified a total of 65 C. albicans-specific genes (ASGs) expressed during infection. Phenotypic characterization of six ASG-null mutants demonstrated that these genes are dispensable for in vitro growth but play defined roles in host-pathogen interactions. Based on these analyses, we investigated two ASGs in greater detail. An orf19.6688Δ mutant was found to be fully virulent in a mouse model of disseminated candidiasis and to induce higher levels of the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-1β (IL-1β) following incubation with murine macrophages. A pga16Δ mutant, on the other hand, exhibited attenuated virulence. Moreover, we provide evidence that secondary filamentation events (multiple hyphae emerging from a mother cell and hyphal branching) contribute to pathogenicity: PGA16 deletion did not influence primary hypha formation or extension following contact with epithelial cells; however, multiple hyphae and hyphal branching were strongly reduced. Significantly, these hyphae failed to damage host cells as effectively as the multiple hypha structures formed by wild-type C. albicans cells. Together, our data show that species-specific genes of a eukaryotic pathogen can play important roles in pathogenicity.