The Role of the Candida Albicans Histidine Kinase [CHK1) Gene in the Regulation of Cell Wall Mannan and Glucan Biosynthesis

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The human pathogen Candida albicans encodes at least three putative two-component histidine kinase signal transduction proteins, including Chk1p and a response regulator protein (Cssk1p). Strains deleted in CHK1 are avirulent in a murine model of hematogenously disseminated disease. The specific function of Chk1p has not been established, but hyphae of the chk1 mutant exhibit extensive flocculation while yeast forms are less adherent to reconstituted human esophageal tissue, indicating that this protein may regulate cell surface properties. Herein, we analyze glucan, mannan and chitin profiles in strains deleted in chk1 (CHK21) compared to a gene-reconstituted strain (CHK23) and a parental strain CAF2. Total alkali-soluble hexose from the cell wall of the chk1 mutant (strain CHK21) was significantly reduced. Western blots of cell wall extracts from CHK21, CHK23 and CAF2 reacted with a Mab to the acid-stable mannan fraction revealed extensive staining of lower molecular mass species in strain CHK21 only. FACE (fluorophore assisted carbohydrate electrophoresis) was used to characterize the oligosaccharide side chains of β-eliminated (O-linked), acid-hydrolyzed (acid-labile phosphomannan) and acetolysis (acid-stable mannan) extracted fractions of total mannan. The profiles of O-linked as well as the acid-labile oligosaccharides were similar in both CAF2 and CHK21, but the acid-stable oligosaccharide side chains were significantly truncated. We also characterized the β-glucan from each strain using NMR, and found that both the degree of polymerization and the ratio of (1-3)/(1-6) linkages was lower in CHK21 relative to wild-type cells. The sensitivity of CHK21 to antifungal drugs and inhibitors was unaffected. In summary, our data have identified a new function for a histidine kinase two-component signal protein in a human pathogenic fungus.