Abstract (Expand)

UNLABELLED: Single-celled organisms have different strategies to sense and utilize nutrients in their ever-changing environments. The opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans is a common member of the human microbiota, especially that of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. An important question concerns how C. albicans gained a competitive advantage over other microbes to become a successful commensal and opportunistic pathogen. Here, we report that C. albicans uses N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc), an abundant carbon source present in the GI tract, as a signal for nutrient availability. When placed in water, C. albicans cells normally enter the G0 phase and remain viable for weeks. However, they quickly lose viability when cultured in water containing only GlcNAc. We term this phenomenon GlcNAc-induced cell death (GICD). GlcNAc triggers the upregulation of ribosomal biogenesis genes, alterations of mitochondrial metabolism, and the accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), followed by rapid cell death via both apoptotic and necrotic mechanisms. Multiple pathways, including the conserved cyclic AMP (cAMP) signaling and GlcNAc catabolic pathways, are involved in GICD. GlcNAc acts as a signaling molecule to regulate multiple cellular programs in a coordinated manner and therefore maximizes the efficiency of nutrient use. This adaptive behavior allows C. albicans' more efficient colonization of the gut. IMPORTANCE: The ability to rapidly and appropriately respond to nutrients in the environment is crucial to free-living microorganisms. To maximize the use of available nutrients, microorganisms often use a limiting nutritional component as a signal to coordinate multiple biological processes. The human fungal pathogen Candida albicans uses N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) as a signal for the availability of external nutrient resources. GlcNAc induces rapid cell death in C. albicans due to the constitutive activation of oxidative metabolism and accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and multiple pathways are involved in its regulation. This study sheds light on the mechanisms of niche specialization of pathogenic fungi and raises the possibility that this cell death pathway could be an unexplored therapeutic target.

Authors: H. Du, G. Guan, X. Li, M. Gulati, L. Tao, C. Cao, A. D. Johnson, C. J. Nobile, G. Huang

Date Published: 10th Sep 2015

Journal: MBio

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