Identification and characterization of the genes for N-acetylglucosamine kinase and N-acetylglucosamine-phosphate deacetylase in the pathogenic fungus Candida albicans

Eur J Biochem. 2001 Apr;268(8):2498-505. doi: 10.1046/j.1432-1327.2001.02135.x.


Like bacteria and many fungi, the pathogenic fungus Candida albicans can utilize GlcNAc as a carbon source for growth. A cluster of six genes was identified in the C. albicans genome. One of the genes in the cluster was CaNAG1, which is responsible for GlcN6P deaminase and is therefore essential for GlcNAc-dependent growth. The other five genes were designated CaNAG2, CaNAG3, CaNAG4, CaNAG5 and CaNAG6. The mRNA levels of CaNAG1, CaNAG2 and CaNAG5 were significantly induced by GlcNAc, whereas those of CaNAG3, CaNAG4 and CaNAG6 were not. Neither CaNAG2 nor CaNAG5 was essential for growth, but disruption of CaNAG2 or CaNAG5 greatly retarded the growth of cells using GlcNAc as the sole carbon source. Although no homolog of CaNAG2 or CaNAG5 was found in the Saccharomyces cerevisiae genome, CaNag2p displayed sequence similarities to Escherichia coli nagA, and CaNag5p is homologous to a wide variety of hexose kinases. When expressed as a fusion protein with glutathione S-transferase (GST), CaNag5p produced GlcNAc-P from GlcNAc in the presence of ATP, whereas GST alone did not. Furthermore, the recombinant GST-CaNag2p fusion protein converted GlcNAcP, which was produced by CaNag5p, into GlcNP. These results clearly demonstrate that CaNAG2 and CaNAG5 encode GlcNAcP deacetylase and GlcNAc kinase, respectively. CaNag5p recognized glucose and mannose as substrates, whereas the recently identified human GlcNAc kinase was specific to GlcNAc. Deletion of CaNAG2 or CaNAG5 markedly, and that of CaNAG1 moderately, attenuated the virulence of C. albicans in a mouse systemic infection model. Thus, it appears that GlcNAc metabolism of C. albicans is closely associated with its virulence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amidohydrolases / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Candida albicans / enzymology*
  • Candida albicans / genetics*
  • Candida albicans / pathogenicity
  • Carbon / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Fungal Proteins*
  • Gene Deletion
  • Glutathione Transferase / metabolism
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Mice
  • Models, Genetic
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Phosphotransferases (Alcohol Group Acceptor) / genetics*
  • Plasmids
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / enzymology
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Time Factors


  • CaNag3 protein, Candida albicans
  • CaNag4 protein, Candida albicans
  • CaNag6 protein, Candida albicans
  • Fungal Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Carbon
  • Glutathione Transferase
  • Phosphotransferases (Alcohol Group Acceptor)
  • N-acetylglucosamine kinase
  • Amidohydrolases
  • N-acetylglucosamine-6-phosphate deacetylase

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AB052107
  • GENBANK/AB052108
  • GENBANK/AB052109
  • GENBANK/AB052110
  • GENBANK/AB052111