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Clin Microbiol Rev. 1992 Apr;5(2):183-203.

High-frequency switching in Candida albicans.

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Department of Biology, University of Iowa, Iowa City 52242.


Most strains of Candida albicans are capable of switching frequently and reversibly between a number of phenotypes distinguishable by colony morphology. A number of different switching systems have been defined according to the limited set of phenotypes in each switching repertoire, and each strain appears to possess a single system. Switching can affect many aspects of cellular physiology and morphology and appears to be a second level of phenotypic variability superimposed upon the bud-hypha transition. The most dramatic switching system so far identified is the "white-opaque transition." This system dramatizes the extraordinary effects switching can have on the budding cell phenotype, including the synthesis of opaque-specific antigens, the expression of white-specific and opaque-specific genes, and the genesis of unique cell wall structures. Switching has been demonstrated to occur at sites of infection and between episodes of recurrent vaginitis, and it may function to generate variability in commensal and infecting populations for adaptive reasons. Although the molecular mechanisms involved in the switch event are not understood, recent approaches to its elucidation are discussed and an epigenetic mechanism is proposed.

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