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EMBO J. Apr 15, 1997; 16(8): 1982–1991.
PMCID: PMC1169801

Efg1p, an essential regulator of morphogenesis of the human pathogen Candida albicans, is a member of a conserved class of bHLH proteins regulating morphogenetic processes in fungi.

Abstract

We identified a gene of the fungal pathogen Candida albicans, designated EFG1, whose high-level expression stimulates pseudohyphal morphogenesis in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In a central region the deduced Efg1 protein is highly homologous to the StuA and Phd1/Sok2 proteins that regulate morphogenesis of Aspergillus nidulans and S. cerevisiae, respectively. The core of the conserved region is homologous to the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) motif of eukaryotic transcription factors, specifically to the human Myc and Max proteins. Fungal-specific residues in the bHLH domain include the substitution of an invariant glutamate, responsible for target (E-box) specificity, by a threonine residue. During hyphal induction EFG1 transcript levels decline to low levels; downregulation is effected at the level of transcriptional initiation as shown by a EFG1 promoter-LAC4 fusion. A strain carrying one disrupted EFG1 allele and one EFG1 allele under the control of the glucose-repressible PCK1 promoter forms rod-like, pseudohyphal cells, but is unable to form true hyphae on glucose-containing media. Overexpression of EFG1 in C. albicans leads to enhanced filamentous growth in the form of extended pseudohyphae in liquid and on solid media. The results suggest that Efg1p has a dual role as a transcriptional activator and repressor, whose balanced activity is essential for yeast, pseudohyphal and hyphal morphogenesis of C. albicans. Functional analogies between Efg1p and Myc are discussed.

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Selected References

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