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Infect Immun. 1998 May;66(5):1953-61.

Cloning and sequencing of a Candida albicans catalase gene and effects of disruption of this gene.

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Evans Memorial Department of Clinical Research, Boston Medical Center, Massachusetts 02118, USA.


Catalase plays a key role as an antioxidant, protecting aerobic organisms from the toxic effects of hydrogen peroxide, and in some cases has been postulated to be a virulence factor. To help elucidate the function of catalase in Candida albicans, a single C. albicans-derived catalase gene, designated CAT1, was isolated and cloned. Degenerate PCR primers based on highly conserved areas of other fungal catalase genes were used to amplify a 411-bp product from genomic DNA of C. albicans ATCC 10261. By using this product as a probe, catalase clones were isolated from genomic libraries of C. albicans. Nucleotide sequence analysis revealed an open reading frame encoding a protein of 487 amino acid residues. Construction of a CAT1-deficient mutant was achieved by using the Ura-blaster technique for sequential disruption of multiple alleles by integrative transformation using URA3 as a selectable marker. Resulting mutants exhibited normal morphology and comparable growth rates of both yeast and mycelial forms. Enzymatic analysis revealed an abundance of catalase in the wild-type strain but decreasing catalase activity in heterozygous mutants and no detectable catalase in a homozygous null mutant. In vitro assays showed the mutant strains to be more sensitive to damage by both neutrophils and concentrations of exogenous peroxide that were sublethal for the parental strain. Compared to the parental strain, the homozygous null mutant strain was far less virulent for mice in an intravenous infection model of disseminated candidiasis. Definitive linkage of CAT1 with virulence would require restoration of activity by reintroduction of the gene into mutants. However, initial results in mice, taken together with the enhanced susceptibility of catalase-deficient hyphae to damage by human neutrophils, suggest that catalase may enhance the pathogenicity of C. albicans.

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