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Eukaryot Cell. 2010 Oct;9(10):1531-7. doi: 10.1128/EC.00111-10. Epub 2010 Aug 13.

The transcriptional regulator Nrg1p controls Candida albicans biofilm formation and dispersion.

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  • 1Department of Biology, South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, The University of Texas at San Antonio, USA.


The ability of Candida albicans to reversibly switch morphologies is important for biofilm formation and dispersion. In this pathogen, Nrg1p functions as a key negative regulator of the yeast-to-hypha morphogenetic transition. We have previously described a genetically engineered C. albicans tet-NRG1 strain in which NRG1 expression levels can be manipulated by the presence or absence of doxycycline (DOX). Here, we have used this strain to ascertain the role of Nrg1p in regulating the different stages of the C. albicans biofilm developmental cycle. In an in vitro model of biofilm formation, the C. albicans tet-NRG1 strain was able to form mature biofilms only when DOX was present in the medium, but not in the absence of DOX, when high levels of NRG1 expression blocked the yeast-to-hypha transition. However, in a biofilm cell retention assay in which biofilms were developed with mixtures of C. albicans tet-NRG1 and SC5314 strains, tet-NRG1 yeast cells were still incorporated into the mixed biofilms, in which an intricate network of hyphae of the wild-type strain provided for biofilm structural integrity and adhesive interactions. Also, utilizing an in vitro biofilm model under conditions of flow, we demonstrated that C. albicans Nrg1p exerts an exquisite control of the dispersal process, as overexpression of NRG1 leads to increases in dispersion of yeast cells from the biofilms. Our results demonstrate that manipulation of NRG1 gene expression has a profound influence on biofilm formation and biofilm dispersal, thus identifying Nrg1p as a key regulator of the C. albicans biofilm life cycle.

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