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Eukaryot Cell. 2004 Jun;3(3):764-75.

Hemoglobin regulates expression of an activator of mating-type locus alpha genes in Candida albicans.

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Laboratory of Pathology, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-1500, USA.


Phenotypic switching from the white to the opaque phase is a necessary step for mating in the pathogenic fungus Candida albicans. Suppressing switching during vascular dissemination of the organism may be advantageous, because opaque cells are more susceptible to host defenses. A repressor of white-opaque switching, HBR1 (hemoglobin response gene 1), was identified based on its specific induction following growth in the presence of exogenous hemoglobin. Deletion of a single HBR1 allele allowed opaque phase switching and mating competence, accompanied by a lack of detectable MTL alpha1 and alpha2 gene expression and enhanced MTLa1 gene expression. Conversely, overexpression of Hbr1p or exposure to hemoglobin increased MTLalpha gene expression. The a1/alpha2 repressed target gene CAG1 was derepressed in the same mutant in a hemoglobin-sensitive manner. Regulation of CAG1 by hemoglobin required an intact MTLa1 gene. Several additional Mtlp targets were perturbed in HBR1 mutants in a manner consistent with commitment to an a mating phenotype, including YEL007w, MFalpha, HST6, and RAM2. Therefore, Hbr1 is part of a host factor-regulated signaling pathway that controls white-opaque switching and mating in the absence of allelic deletion at the MTL locus.

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