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Infect Immun. 2005 Feb;73(2):865-71.

Deletion of the SSK1 response regulator gene in Candida albicans contributes to enhanced killing by human polymorphonuclear neutrophils.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Georgetown University Medical Center, 312 SE Med Dent Building, 3900 Reservoir Road NW, Washington, DC 20057-2197, USA.


The isolation and partial functional characterization of the two-component response regulator SSK1 gene of Candida albicans was previously reported. Compared to wild-type (CAF2-1) and gene-reconstituted (SSK23) strains, the ssk1 null strain (SSK21) was avirulent in a murine model of hematogenously disseminated candidiasis and less able to adhere to human esophageal cells. More recent data indicate that SSK21 is sensitive to 4 to 8 mM H(2)O(2) in vitro than CAF2-1 and SSK23. Furthermore, microarray studies indicate that the regulation of two classes of genes, those encoding cell wall functions and stress adaptation, are altered in the ssk1 mutant. In the present study, the susceptibility of strains CAF2-1, SSK21, and SSK23 to killing by human polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs) was assessed. Results are also described for a newly constructed ssk1 mutant (SSK24) in which the URA3 gene is integrated into its native locus. Our results indicate that killing of SSK21 and SSK24 was significantly greater than that of CAF2-1 and SSK23 (P < 0.01). In order to determine why Ssk1p at least partially protects the organism against the killing activity of human PMNs, we compared the signal transduction activity and the inflammatory response gene profiles of PMNs infected with either the wild type or the ssk1 mutant. Phosphorylation of the mitogen-activated protein kinases p42/44 and p38 from neutrophils infected with either CAF2-1 (wild type) or SSK21 (ssk1/ssk1) was similar, while expression and phosphorylation of the JNK mitogen-activated protein kinase was not observed following infection with either strain. On the other hand, we observed an upregulation of seven inflammatory response genes in PMNs infected with the SSK21 mutant only, while an increase in interleukin-10 expression was measured in PMNs infected with either strain. Downregulation of interleukin-2 was observed in PMNs infected with either strain. Verification of the transcriptional profiling was obtained by reverse transcription-PCR for three of the genes that were upregulated in neutrophils infected with the ssk1 mutant. Also, the sensitivity of strain SSK21 to human defensin-1, one of the nonoxidative, antimicrobial peptides of PMNs, was greater than that of CAF2-1, demonstrating that nonoxidative killing in PMNs may contribute to the increased susceptibility of the ssk1 mutant. Our results indicate that the Ssk1p response regulator protein may provide at least partial adaptive functions for the survival of C. albicans following its encounter with human neutrophils.

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