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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Aug 22;103(34):12807-12. Epub 2006 Aug 9.

Epigenetic properties of white-opaque switching in Candida albicans are based on a self-sustaining transcriptional feedback loop.

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1
Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 600 16th Street, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94158, USA.

Abstract

White-opaque switching in the human fungal pathogen Candida albicans is an alternation between two distinct types of cells, white and opaque. White and opaque cells differ in their appearance under the microscope, the genes they express, their mating behaviors, and the host tissues for which they are best suited. Each state is heritable for many generations, and switching between states occurs stochastically, at low frequency. In this article, we identify a master regulator of white-opaque switching (Wor1), and we show that this protein is a transcriptional regulator that is needed to both establish and maintain the opaque state. We show that in opaque cells, Wor1 forms a positive feedback loop: It binds its own DNA regulatory region and activates its own transcription leading to the accumulation of high levels of Wor1. We further show that this feedback loop is self-sustaining: Once activated, it persists for many generations. We propose that this Wor1 feedback loop accounts, at least in part, for the heritability of the opaque state. In contrast, white cells (and their descendents) lack appreciable levels of Wor1, and the feedback loop remains inactive. Thus, this simple model can account for both the heritability of the white and opaque states and the stochastic nature of the switching between them.

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PMID:
16899543
PMCID:
PMC1535343
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.0605138103
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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