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Eukaryot Cell. 2003 Oct;2(5):847-55.

Alpha-pheromone-induced "shmooing" and gene regulation require white-opaque switching during Candida albicans mating.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1324, USA.


A 14-mer alpha-pheromone peptide of Candida albicans was chemically synthesized and used to analyze the role of white-opaque switching in the mating process. The alpha-pheromone peptide blocked cell multiplication and induced "shmooing" in a/a cells expressing the opaque-phase phenotype but not in a/a cells expressing the white-phase phenotype. The alpha-pheromone peptide induced these effects at 25 degrees C but not at 37 degrees C. An analysis of mating-associated gene expression revealed several categories of gene regulation, including (i) MTL-homozygous-specific, pheromone stimulated, switching-independent (CAG1 and STE4); (ii) mating type-specific, pheromone-induced, switching-independent (STE2); and (iii) pheromone-induced, switching-dependent (FIG1, KAR4, and HWP1). An analysis of switching-regulated genes revealed an additional category of opaque-phase-specific genes that are downregulated by alpha-pheromone only in a/a cells (OP4, SAP1, and SAP3). These results demonstrate that alpha-pheromone causes shmooing, the initial step in the mating process, only in a/a cells expressing the opaque phenotype and only at temperatures below that in the human host. These results further demonstrate that although some mating-associated genes are stimulated by the alpha-pheromone peptide in both white- and opaque-phase cells, others are stimulated only in opaque-phase cells, revealing a category of gene regulation unique to C. albicans in which alpha-pheromone induction requires the white-opaque transition. These results demonstrate that in C. albicans, the mating process and associated gene regulation must be examined within the context of white-opaque switching.

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