Host-induced, Stage-Specific Virulence Gene Activation in Candida Albicans During Infection

Mol Microbiol. 1999 May;32(3):533-46. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.1999.01367.x.


An understanding of the complex interactions between pathogenic microbes and their host must include the identification of gene expression patterns during infection. To detect the activation of virulence genes in the opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans in vivo by host signals, we devised a reporter system that is based on FLP-mediated genetic recombination. The FLP gene, encoding the site-specific recombinase FLP, was genetically modified for expression in C. albicans and fused to the promoter of the SAP2 gene that codes for one of the secreted aspartic proteinases, which are putative virulence factors of C. albicans. The SAP2P-FLP fusion was integrated into one of the SAP2 alleles in a strain that contained a deletable marker that conferred resistance to mycophenolic acid and was flanked by direct repeats of the FLP recognition target (FRT). Using this reporter system, a transient gene induction could be monitored at the level of single cells by the mycophenolic acid-sensitive phenotype of the colonies generated from such cells after FLP-mediated marker excision. In two mouse models of disseminated candidiasis, SAP2 expression was not observed in the initial phase of infection, but the SAP2 gene was strongly induced after dissemination into deep organs. In contrast, in a mouse model of oesophageal candidiasis in which dissemination into internal organs did not occur, no SAP2 expression was detected at any time. Our results support a role of the SAP2 gene in the late stages of an infection, after fungal spread into deep tissue. This new in vivo expression technology (IVET) for a human fungal pathogen allows the detection of virulence gene induction at different stages of an infection, and therefore provides clues about the role of these genes in the disease process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aspartic Acid Endopeptidases / genetics*
  • Aspartic Acid Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Base Sequence
  • Candida albicans / genetics*
  • Candida albicans / pathogenicity*
  • Candidiasis / microbiology*
  • DNA Nucleotidyltransferases / genetics
  • DNA Nucleotidyltransferases / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Fungal Proteins*
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Virulence / genetics


  • Fungal Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • DNA Nucleotidyltransferases
  • FLP recombinase
  • Aspartic Acid Endopeptidases
  • SAP2 protein, Candida