Strains and strategies for large-scale gene deletion studies of the diploid human fungal pathogen Candida albicans.
ABSTRACT: Candida albicans is the most common human fungal pathogen and causes significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. Nevertheless, the basic principles of C. albicans pathogenesis remain poorly understood. Of central importance to the study of this organism is the ability to generate homozygous knockout mutants and to analyze them in a mammalian model of pathogenesis. C. albicans is diploid, and current strategies for gene deletion typically involve repeated use of the URA3 selectable marker. These procedures are often time-consuming and inefficient. Moreover, URA3 expression levels-which are susceptible to chromosome position effects-can themselves affect virulence, thereby complicating analysis of strains constructed with URA3 as a selectable marker. Here, we describe a set of newly developed reference strains (leu2Delta/leu2Delta, his1Delta/his1Delta; arg4Delta/arg4Delta, his1Delta/his1Delta; and arg4Delta/arg4Delta, leu2Delta/leu2Delta, his1Delta/his1Delta) that exhibit wild-type or nearly wild-type virulence in a mouse model. We also describe new disruption marker cassettes and a fusion PCR protocol that permit rapid and highly efficient generation of homozygous knockout mutations in the new C. albicans strains. We demonstrate these procedures for two well-studied genes, TUP1 and EFG1, as well as a novel gene, RBD1. These tools should permit large-scale genetic analysis of this important human pathogen.
Project description:Precise genome modification is essential for the molecular dissection of Candida albicans, and is yielding invaluable information about the roles of specific gene functions in this major fungal pathogen of humans. C. albicans is naturally diploid, unable to undergo meiosis, and utilizes a non-canonical genetic code. Hence, specialized tools have had to be developed for gene disruption in C. albicans that permit the deletion of both target alleles, and in some cases, the recycling of the Candida-specific selectable markers. Previously, we developed a tool based on the Cre recombinase, which recycles markers in C. albicans with 90-100% efficiency via site-specific recombination between loxP sites. Ironically, the utility of this system was hampered by the extreme efficiency of Cre, which prevented the construction in Escherichia coli of stable disruption cassettes carrying a methionine-regulatable CaMET3p-cre gene flanked by loxP sites. Therefore, we have significantly enhanced this system by engineering new Clox cassettes that carry a synthetic, intron-containing cre gene. The Clox kit facilitates efficient transformation and marker recycling, thereby simplifying and accelerating the process of gene disruption in C. albicans. Indeed, homozygous mutants can be generated and their markers resolved within two weeks. The Clox kit facilitates strategies involving single marker recycling or multi-marker gene disruption. Furthermore, it includes the dominant NAT1 marker, as well as URA3, HIS1 and ARG4 cassettes, thereby permitting the manipulation of clinical isolates as well as genetically marked strains of C. albicans. The accelerated gene disruption strategies afforded by this new Clox system are likely to have a profound impact on the speed with which C. albicans pathobiology can be dissected.
Project description: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.
Project description:Candida dubliniensis is a recently described opportunistic fungal pathogen that is closely related to Candida albicans but differs from it with respect to epidemiology, certain virulence characteristics, and the ability to develop fluconazole resistance in vitro. A comparison of C. albicans and C. dubliniensis at the molecular level should therefore provide clues about the mechanisms used by these two species to adapt to their human host. In contrast to C. albicans, no auxotrophic C. dubliniensis strains are available for genetic manipulations. Therefore, we constructed homozygous ura3 mutants from a C. dubliniensis wild-type isolate by targeted gene deletion. The two URA3 alleles were sequentially inactivated using the MPA(R)-flipping strategy, which is based on the selection of integrative transformants carrying a mycophenolic acid resistance marker that is subsequently deleted again by site-specific, FLP-mediated recombination. The URA3 gene from C. albicans (CaURA3) was then used as a selection marker for targeted integration of a fusion between the C. dubliniensis MDR1 (CdMDR1) promoter and a C. albicans-adapted GFP reporter gene. Uridine-prototrophic transformants were obtained with high frequency, and all transformants of two independent ura3-negative parent strains had correctly integrated the reporter gene fusion into the CdMDR1 locus, demonstrating that the CaURA3 gene can be used for efficient and specific targeting of recombinant DNA into the C. dubliniensis genome. Transformants carrying the reporter gene fusion did not exhibit detectable fluorescence during growth in yeast extract-peptone-dextrose medium in vitro, suggesting that CdMDR1 is not significantly expressed under these conditions. Fluconazole had no effect on MDR1 expression, but the addition of the drug benomyl strongly activated the reporter gene fusion in a dose-dependent fashion, demonstrating that the CdMDR1 gene, which encodes an efflux pump mediating resistance to toxic compounds, is induced by the presence of certain drugs.
Project description:Candida albicans is the most prevalent fungal pathogen of humans. The current techniques used to construct C. albicans strains require integration of exogenous DNA at ectopic locations, which can exert position effects on gene expression that can confound the interpretation of data from critical experiments such as virulence assays. We have identified a large intergenic region, NEUT5L, which facilitates the integration and expression of ectopic genes. To construct and integrate inserts into this novel locus, we re-engineered yeast/bacterial shuttle vectors by incorporating 550 bp of homology to NEUT5L. These vectors allow rapid, facile cloning through in vivo recombination (gap repair) in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and efficient integration of the construct into the NEUT5L locus. Other useful features of these vectors include a choice of three selectable markers (URA3, the recyclable URA3-dpl200 or NAT1), and rare restriction enzyme recognition sites for releasing the insert from the vector prior to transformation into C. albicans, thereby reducing the insert size and preventing integration of non-C. albicans DNA. Importantly, unlike the commonly used RPS1/RP10 locus, integration at NEUT5L has no negative effect on growth rates and allows native-locus expression levels, making it an ideal genomic locus for the integration of exogenous DNA in C. albicans.
Project description:Centromeres are critically important for chromosome stability and integrity. Most eukaryotes have regional centromeres that include long tracts of repetitive DNA packaged into pericentric heterochromatin. Neocentromeres, new sites of functional kinetochore assembly, can form at ectopic loci because no DNA sequence is strictly required for assembly of a functional kinetochore. In humans, neocentromeres often arise in cells with gross chromosome rearrangements that rescue an acentric chromosome. Here, we studied the properties of centromeres in Candida albicans, the most prevalent fungal pathogen of humans, which has small regional centromeres that lack pericentric heterochromatin. We functionally delimited centromere DNA on Chromosome 5 (CEN5) and then replaced the entire region with the counter-selectable URA3 gene or other marker genes. All of the resulting cen5Delta::URA3 transformants stably retained both copies of Chr5, indicating that a functional neocentromere had assembled efficiently on the homolog lacking CEN5 DNA. Strains selected to maintain only the cen5Delta::URA3 homolog and no wild-type Chr5 homolog also grew well, indicating that neocentromere function is independent of the presence of any wild-type CEN5 DNA. Two classes of neocentromere (neoCEN) strains were distinguishable: "proximal neoCEN" and "distal neoCEN" strains. Neocentromeres in the distal neoCEN strains formed at loci about 200-450 kb from cen5Delta::URA3 on either chromosome arm, as detected by massively parallel sequencing of DNA isolated by CENP-A(Cse4p) chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP). In the proximal neoCEN strains, the neocentromeres formed directly adjacent to cen5Delta::URA3 and moved onto the URA3 DNA, resulting in silencing of its expression. Functional neocentromeres form efficiently at several possible loci that share properties of low gene density and flanking repeated DNA sequences. Subsequently, neocentromeres can move locally, which can be detected by silencing of an adjacent URA3 gene, or can relocate to entirely different regions of the chromosome. The ability to select for neocentromere formation and movement in C. albicans permits mechanistic analysis of the assembly and maintenance of a regional centromere.
Project description:Candida lusitaniae is a dimorphic yeast that is emerging as an opportunistic fungal pathogen. In contrast to Candida albicans, which is diploid and asexual, C. lusitaniae has been reported to have a sexual cycle. We have employed genetic approaches to demonstrate that C. lusitaniae is haploid and has a sexual cycle involving mating between MATa and MATalpha cells under nutrient deprivation conditions. By degenerate PCR, we identified a C. lusitaniae homolog (Cls12) of the Ste12 transcription factor that regulates mating, filamentation, and virulence in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, C. albicans, and Cryptococcus neoformans. Comparison of the CLS12 DNA and protein sequences to other STE12 homologs and transformation experiments with selectable markers from S. cerevisiae (URA3, KanMX, HphMX) and C. albicans (CaURA3) provide evidence that the CUG codon encodes serine instead of leucine in C. lusitaniae, as is also the case in C. albicans. The C. lusitaniae CLS12 gene was disrupted by biolistic transformation and homologous recombination. C. lusitaniae cls12 mutant strains were sterile but had no defect in filamentous growth. Our findings reveal both conserved and divergent roles for the C. lusitaniae STE12 homolog in regulating differentiation of this emerging fungal pathogen.
Project description:Parasexual genetic analysis of Candida albicans utilized the dominant selectable marker that conferred resistance to mycophenolic acid. We cloned and sequenced the IMH3(r) gene from C. albicans strain 1006, which was previously identified as resistant to mycophenolic acid (MPA) (A. K. Goshorn and S. Scherer, Genetics 123:213-218, 1989). MPA is an inhibitor of IMP dehydrogenase, an enzyme necessary for the de novo biosynthesis of GMP. G. A. Kohler et al. (J. Bacteriol. 179:2331-2338, 1997) have shown that the wild-type IMH3 gene, when expressed in high copy number, will confer resistance to this antibiotic. We demonstrate that the IMH3(r) gene from strain 1006 has three amino acid changes, two of which are nonconservative, and demonstrate that at least two of the three mutations are required to confer resistance to MPA. We used this gene as a dominant selectable marker in clinical isolates of C. albicans and Candida tropicalis. We also identified the presence of autonomously replicating sequence elements that permit autonomous replication in the promoter region of this gene. Finally, we found the excision of a phi-type long terminal repeat element outside the IMH3 open reading frame of the gene in some strains. We used the IMH3(r) allele to disrupt one allele of ARG4 in two clinical isolates, WO-1 and FC18, thus demonstrating that a single ectopic integration of this dominant selectable marker is sufficient to confer resistance to MPA.
Project description:Protein phosphatases are critical for the regulation of many cellular processes. Null mutants of 21 putative protein phosphatases of Candida albicans were constructed by consecutive allele replacement using the URA3 and ARG4 marker genes. A simple silkworm model of C. albicans infection was used to screen the panel of mutants. Four null mutant (cmp1Delta, yvh1Delta, sit4Delta, and ptc1Delta) strains showed attenuated virulence in the silkworm model relative to that of control and parental strains. Three of the mutants, the cmp1Delta, yvh1Delta, and sit4Delta mutants, had previously been identified as affecting virulence in a conventional mouse model, indicating the validity of the silkworm model screen. Disruption of the putative protein phosphatase gene PTC1 of C. albicans, which has 52% identity to the Saccharomyces cerevisiae type 2C protein phosphatase PTC1, significantly reduced virulence in the silkworm model. The mutant was also avirulent in a mouse model of disseminated candidiasis. Reintroducing either of the C. albicans PTC1 alleles into the disruptant strain, using a cassette containing either allele under the control of a constitutive ACT1 promoter, restored virulence in both infection models. Characterization of ptc1Delta revealed other phenotypic traits, including reduced hyphal growth in vitro and in vivo, and reduced extracellular proteolytic activity. We conclude that PTC1 may contribute to pathogenicity in C. albicans.
Project description:A model system for one-step gene disruption for an asporogenous methylotrophic yeast, Candida boidinii, is described. In this system, the 3-isopropylmalate dehydrogenase gene (C. boidinii LEU2) was selected as the target gene for disruption to derive new host strains for transformation. First, the C. boidinii LEU2 gene was cloned, and its complete nucleotide sequence was determined. Next, the LEU2 disruption vectors, which had the C. boidinii URA3 gene as the selectable marker, were constructed. Of the Ura+ transformants obtained with these plasmids, more than half showed a Leu- phenotype. Finally, the double-marker strains of C. boidinii were derived. When vectors with repeated flanking sequences of the C. boidinii URA3 gene were used for gene disruption, Leu- Ura+ transformants changed spontaneously to a Leu- Ura- phenotype ca. 100 times more frequently than they did when plasmids without the repeated sequences were used. Southern analysis showed that these events included a one-step gene disruption and a subsequent popping out of the C. boidinii URA3 sequence from the transformant chromosome.
Project description:A dominant selectable marker for Candida albicans and other Candida species, which confers resistance to nourseothricin, was characterized. In a heterologous promoter system and a recyclable cassette, the marker efficiently permitted deletion and complementation of C. albicans genes. Neither growth nor filamentous development was affected in strains expressing this marker.