The role of nutrient regulation and the Gpa2 protein in the mating pheromone response of C. albicans


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Although traditionally classified as asexual, the human fungal pathogen Candida albicans can undergo highly efficient mating. A key component of this mating is the response to pheromone, which is mediated by a conserved kinase cascade that transduces the signal from the pheromone receptor to a transcriptional response in the nucleus. In this paper we show (i) that the detailed response of C. albicans to the alpha pheromone differs among clinical isolates, (ii) that the response depends critically on nutritional conditions, (iii) that the entire response is mediated by the Ste2 receptor, and (iv) that, in terms of genes induced, the response to alpha pheromone in C. albicans shows only marginal overlap with the response in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We further investigated the nutritional control of pheromone induction and identify the GPA2 gene as a critical component. We found that Δgpa2/Δgpa2 mutants are hypersensitive to pheromone and, unlike wild-type strains, show efficient cell cycle arrest (including the formation of characteristic halos on solid medium) in response to mating pheromone. These results indicate that C. albicans, like several other fungal species but unlike S. cerevisiae, integrates signals from a nutrient-sensing pathway with those of the pheromone response MAP kinase pathway to generate the final transcriptional response.