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Bioessays. 2004 Jan;26(1):10-20.

Mating-type locus homozygosis, phenotypic switching and mating: a unique sequence of dependencies in Candida albicans.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


A small proportion of clinical strains of Candida albicans undergo white-opaque switching. Until recently it was not clear why, since most strains carry the genes differentially expressed in the unique opaque phase. The answer to this enigma lies in the mating process. The majority of C. albicans strains are heterozygous for the mating type locus MTL (a/alpha) and cannot undergo white-opaque switching. However, when these cells undergo homozygosis at the mating type locus (i.e., become a/a or alpha/alpha), they can switch, and they must switch in order to mate. Even though the newly identified stages of mating mimic those of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the process differs in its dependency on switching, and the effects switching has on gene regulation. This unique feature of C. albicans mating appears to be intimately intertwined with its pathogenesis. The unique, newly discovered dependencies of switching on homozygosis at the MTL locus and of mating on switching are, therefore, reviewed within the context of pathogenesis.

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