Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Program

Biomedical Sciences

Date of Award

12-2013

Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Michael Kruppa

Committee Members

Robert Schoborg, Michelle Duffourc, James Hayman, Antonio Rusinol

Abstract

Throughout existence, fungi and bacteria have long shared ecological niches and thus engage in numerous interactions to mutually enhance survival or antagonistically gain competitive advantages. Of importance to human health are those interactions that involve bacteria with the opportunistic fungi, Candida albicans. An important virulence factor of C. albicans is the ability to control morphology, which allows the transition between yeast, pseudohyphal, and hyphal phenotypes. Morphological control in C. albicans is governed by quorum sensing and the secreted autoregulatory molecule farnesol. Quorum sensing allows individual cells to sense the environment and respond as a group. Bacteria also use quorum sensing to communicate and control virulence. Despite their abundance in nature, very little is known about the interactions of C. albicans with bacteria on a genetic and molecular level. The objective of our research is to identify the genetic elements involved in C. albicans-bacterial interactions and characterize the genes that may participate in these relationships. To accomplish this, we screened a C. albicans mutant library for the ability to filament in the presence of Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Staphylococcus aureus, where 3 typically, these three bacterial species inhibit C. albicans filamentation. We identified 836 C. albicans mutants that displayed a filamentous phenotype in the presence of bacteria. Collectively, 295 of these mutants filamented in the presence of all 3 bacterial species. Candidates were subsequently sequenced to identify the location of the mutation and the affected genetic element. CDR4, a putative ABC transporter, and ALS6, a putative adhesion, were further characterized for their specific involvement in Candida-bacterial interactions. Using a filamentation assay, cdr4 and als6 deletion strains demonstrated a decreased response to the inhibitory effects of farnesol, as well as bacterial molecules known to inhibit the production of hyphal-filaments. Additionally, the ability of cdr4 and als6 deletion strains to attach and form biofilms was significantly enhanced even in the presence of farnesol and bacterial inhibitors. The results of this study contribute to the body of knowledge involving polymicrobial interactions and these findings may lead to new antifungal targets for therapeutic interventions.

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Copyright

Copyright by the authors.

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