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Astrobiology. 2011 Oct;11(8):825-36. doi: 10.1089/ast.2011.0664. Epub 2011 Sep 21.

Modeled microgravity increases filamentation, biofilm formation, phenotypic switching, and antimicrobial resistance in Candida albicans.

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Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Montana State University , Bozeman, USA.


Candida albicans is an opportunistic fungal pathogen responsible for a variety of cutaneous and systemic human infections. Virulence of C. albicans increases upon exposure to some environmental stresses; therefore, we explored phenotypic responses of C. albicans following exposure to the environmental stress of low-shear modeled microgravity. Upon long-term (12-day) exposure to low-shear modeled microgravity, C. albicans transitioned from yeast to filamentous forms at a higher rate than observed under control conditions. Consistently, genes associated with cellular morphology were differentially expressed in a time-dependent manner. Biofilm communities, credited with enhanced resistance to environmental stress, formed in the modeled microgravity bioreactor and had a more complex structure than those formed in control conditions. In addition, cells exposed to low-shear modeled microgravity displayed phenotypic switching, observed as a near complete transition from smooth to "hyper" irregular wrinkle colony morphology. Consistent with the presence of biofilm communities and increased rates of phenotypic switching, cells exposed to modeled microgravity were significantly more resistant to the antifungal agent Amphotericin B. Together, these data indicate that C. albicans adapts to the environmental stress of low-shear modeled microgravity by demonstrating virulence-associated phenotypes.

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