A Candida albicans cell wall-linked protein promotes invasive filamentation into semi-solid medium


E-mail carol.kumamoto@tufts.edu; Tel. (+1) 617 636 0404; Fax (+1) 617 636 0337.


Growth of cells in contact with an abiotic or biological surface profoundly affects cellular physiology. In the opportunistic human pathogen, Candida albicans, growth on a semi-solid matrix such as agar results in invasive filamentation, a process in which cells change their morphology to highly elongated filamentous hyphae that grow into the matrix. We hypothesized that a plasma membrane receptor-type protein would sense the presence of matrix and activate a signal transduction cascade, thus promoting invasive filamentation. In this communication, we demonstrate that during growth in contact with a semi-solid surface, activation of a MAP kinase, Cek1p, is promoted, in part, by a plasma membrane protein termed Dfi1p and results in invasive filamentation. A C. albicans mutant lacking Dfi1p showed reduced virulence in a murine model of disseminated candidiasis. Dfi1p is a relatively small, integral membrane protein that localizes to the plasma membrane. Some Dfi1p molecules become cross-linked to the carbohydrate polymers of the cell wall. Thus, Dfi1p is capable of linking the cell wall to the plasma membrane and cytoplasm.