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Mol Microbiol. 2006 Apr;60(1):5-15.

Flocculation, adhesion and biofilm formation in yeasts.

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Harvard University Bauer Center for Genomics Research, 7 Divinity Avenue, Room 104, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Yeast cells possess a remarkable capacity to adhere to abiotic surfaces, cells and tissues. These adhesion properties are of medical and industrial relevance. Pathogenic yeasts such as Candida albicans and Candida glabrata adhere to medical devices and form drug-resistant biofilms. In contrast, cell-cell adhesion (flocculation) is a desirable property of industrial Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains that allows the easy separation of cells from the fermentation product. Adhesion is conferred by a class of special cell wall proteins, called adhesins. Cells carry several different adhesins, each allowing adhesion to specific substrates. Several signalling cascades including the Ras/cAMP/PKA and MAP kinase (MAPK)-dependent filamentous growth pathways tightly control synthesis of the different adhesins. Together, these pathways trigger adhesion in response to stress, nutrient limitation or small molecules produced by the host, such as auxin in plants or NAD in mammals. In addition, adhesins are subject to subtelomeric epigenetic switching, resulting in stochastic expression patterns. Internal tandem repeats within adhesin genes trigger recombination events and the formation of novel adhesins, thereby offering fungi an endless reservoir of adhesion properties. These aspects of fungal adhesion exemplify the impressive phenotypic plasticity of yeasts, allowing them to adapt quickly to stressful environments and exploit new opportunities.

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