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Microbiology. 2010 Apr;156(Pt 4):1234-43. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.033985-0. Epub 2009 Dec 17.

Candida albicans sphingolipid C9-methyltransferase is involved in hyphal elongation.

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Department of Life Science, Graduate School of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Tokyo Institute of Technology, 4259-B5 Nagatsuta, Midori-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa 266-8501, Japan.


C9-methylated glucosylceramide is a fungus-specific sphingolipid. This lipid is a major membrane component in the cell and is thought to play important roles in the growth and virulence of several fungal species. To investigate the importance of the methyl branch of the long-chain base in glucosylceramides in pathogenic fungi, we identified and characterized a sphingolipid C9-methyltransferase gene (MTS1, C9-MethylTransferase for Sphingolipid 1) in the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans. The mts1 disruptant lacked (E,E)-9-methylsphinga-4,8-dienine in its glucosylceramides and contained (E)-sphing-4-enine and (E,E)-sphinga-4,8-dienine. Reintroducing the MTS1 gene into the mts1 disruptant restored the synthesis of (E,E)-9-methylsphinga-4,8-dienine in the glucosylceramides. We also created a disruptant of the HSX11 gene, encoding glucosylceramide synthase, which catalyses the final step of glucosylceramide synthesis, in C. albicans and compared this mutant with the mts1 disruptant. The C. albicans mts1 and hsx11 disruptants both had a decreased hyphal growth rate compared to the wild-type strain. The hsx11 disruptant showed increased susceptibility to SDS and fluconazole, similar to a previously reported sld1 disruptant that contained only (E)-sphing-4-enine in its glucosylceramides, suggesting that these strains have defects in their cell membrane structures. In contrast, the mts1 disruptant grew similarly to wild-type in medium containing SDS or fluconazole. These results suggest that the C9-methyl group of a long-chain base in glucosylceramides plays an important role in the hyphal elongation of C. albicans independent of lipid membrane disruption.

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