Papers in the Biological Sciences


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Published in INFECTION AND IMMUNITY, Apr. 2009, p. 1596–1605 Vol. 77, No. 4. Copyright © 2009, American Society for Microbiology. Used by permission.


The opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans is a part of the normal flora but it also causes systemic candidiasis if it reaches the bloodstream. Upon being phagocytized by macrophages, an important component of innate immunity, C. albicans rapidly upregulates a set of arginine biosynthetic genes. Arginine, urea, and CO2 induced hyphae in a density-dependent manner in wild-type, cph1/cph1, and rim101/rim101 strains but not in efg1/efg1 or cph1/cph1 efg1/efg1 strains. Arginase (Car1p) converts arginine to urea, which in turn is degraded by urea amidolyase (Dur1,2p) to produce CO2, a signal for hyphal switching. We used a dur1,2/dur1,2 mutant (KWN6) and the complemented strain, KWN8 (dur1,2/dur1,2::DUR1,2/DUR1,2) to study germ tube formation. KWN6 could not make germ tubes in the presence of arginine or urea but did in the presence of 5% CO2, which bypasses Dur1,2p. We also tested the effect of arginine on the interaction between the macrophage line RAW 264.7 and several strains of C. albicans. Arginine activated an Efg1p-dependent yeast-to-hypha switch, enabling wild-type C. albicans and KWN8 to escape from macrophages within 6 h, whereas KWN6 was defective in this regard. Additionally, two mutants that cannot synthesize arginine, BWP17 and SN152, were defective in making hyphae inside the macrophages, whereas the corresponding arginine prototrophs, DAY286 and SN87, formed germ tubes and escaped from macrophages. Therefore, metabolism of arginine by C. albicans controls hyphal switching and provides an important mechanism for escaping host defense.

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