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Genetics. 2017 Nov;207(3):1195-1211. doi: 10.1534/genetics.117.300295. Epub 2017 Sep 14.

Parasex Generates Phenotypic Diversity de Novo and Impacts Drug Resistance and Virulence in Candida albicans.

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Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912.
Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912


Candida albicans is a diploid fungus that is a frequent cause of mucosal and systemic infections in humans. This species exhibits an unusual parasexual cycle in which mating produces tetraploid cells that undergo a nonmeiotic program of concerted chromosome loss to return to a diploid or aneuploid state. In this work, we used a multipronged approach to examine the capacity of parasex to generate diversity in C. albicans First, we compared the phenotypic properties of 32 genotyped progeny and observed wide-ranging differences in fitness, filamentation, biofilm formation, and virulence. Strikingly, one parasexual isolate displayed increased virulence relative to parental strains using a Galleria mellonella model of infection, establishing that parasex has the potential to enhance pathogenic traits. Next, we examined parasexual progeny derived from homothallic, same-sex mating events, and reveal that parasex can generate diversity de novo from identical parental strains. Finally, we generated pools of parasexual progeny and examined resistance of these pools to environmental stresses. Parasexual progeny were generally less fit than control strains across most test conditions, but showed an increased ability to grow in the presence of the antifungal drug fluconazole (FL). FL-resistant progeny were aneuploid isolates, often being diploid strains trisomic for both Chr3 and Chr6. Passaging of these aneuploid strains frequently led to loss of the supernumerary chromosomes and a concomitant decrease in drug resistance. These experiments establish that parasex generates extensive phenotypic diversity de novo, and that this process has important consequences for both virulence and drug resistance in C. albicans populations.


Sexual reproduction; aneuploidy; antifungal; fluconazole; pathogenesis

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