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Melissa Ramirez

Advisor: Michael Lorenz, Ph.D.

Accepted a position with the FBI after receiving PhD

The interaction between C. albicans and innate immune cells is a key determinant to disease progression. Transcriptional profiling showed that C. albicans responds to macrophage phagocytosis by inducing pathways required for alternative carbon metabolism (beta-oxidation, the glyoxylate cycle, and gluconeogenesis), suggesting these pathways are important for virulence of C. albicans.

We have shown that deleting key genes (FOX2, FBP1) in these pathways results in virulence defects in an in vivo mouse model for systemic infection. Like icl1Δ/Δ mutants, fbp1Δ/Δ mutants are severely attenuated and fox2Δ/Δ mutants are mildly but significantly attenuated, indicating that carbon starvation is a relevant stress in vivo. However, fox2Δ/Δ mutants also had unexpected phenotypes on certain carbon sources, unlike the case in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, suggesting these pathways are regulated differently in C. albicans. To test this, we identified the C. albicans regulators of these pathways based on those from S. cerevisiae and Aspergillus nidulans.

C. albicans has a partly conserved framework, but lacks two regulators (Oaf1p, Pip2p) controlling peroxisome biogenesis and beta-oxidation genes in yeast. Instead, C. albicans has a homolog, CTF1, of the A. nidulans fatty acid catabolism regulators FarA and FarB. We have shown that CTF1 is needed for growth on oleate (like FarA and FarB), expression of beta-oxidation and glyoxylate cycle genes, and full virulence. No function for CTF1 has previously been identified in C. albicans. Our data demonstrate a role for alternative carbon metabolism in the virulence of C. albicans and suggest that the regulation of these pathways is a mixture of the filamentous fungi and budding yeast systems.

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Research Info

Alternative Carbon Metabolism: Virulence and Regulation in Candida albicans