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J Biol Chem. 2011 Aug 19;286(33):28671-80. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.249854. Epub 2011 Jun 23.

N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) induction of hyphal morphogenesis and transcriptional responses in Candida albicans are not dependent on its metabolism.

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Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York 11794-5222, USA.


N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) stimulates important signaling pathways in a wide range of organisms. In the human fungal pathogen Candida albicans, GlcNAc stimulates hyphal cell morphogenesis, virulence genes, and the genes needed to catabolize GlcNAc. Previous studies on the GlcNAc transporter (NGT1) indicated that GlcNAc has to be internalized to induce signaling. Therefore, the role of GlcNAc catabolism was examined by deleting the genes required to phosphorylate, deacetylate, and deaminate GlcNAc to convert it to fructose-6-PO(4) (HXK1, NAG1, and DAC1). As expected, the mutants failed to utilize GlcNAc. Surprisingly, GlcNAc inhibited the growth of the nag1Δ and dac1Δ mutants in the presence of other sugars, suggesting that excess GlcNAc-6-PO(4) is deleterious. Interestingly, both hxk1Δ and an hxk1Δ nag1Δ dac1Δ triple mutant could be efficiently stimulated by GlcNAc to form hyphae. These mutants could also be stimulated to express GlcNAc-regulated genes. Because GlcNAc must be phosphorylated by Hxk1 to be catabolized, and also for it to enter the anabolic pathways that form chitin, N-linked glycosylation, and glycosylphosphatidylinositol anchors, the mutant phenotypes indicate that GlcNAc metabolism is not needed to induce signaling in C. albicans. Thus, these studies in C. albicans reveal a novel role for GlcNAc in cell signaling that may also regulate critical pathways in other organisms.

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