Iron uptake systems often function as virulence factors in pathogenic organisms. Candida albicans is a fungal pathogen that infects immunocompromised hosts, such as AIDS patients or granulocytopenic bone marrow transplant recipients. Here we show that iron uptake from siderophores occurs in C. albicans and is mediated by one or more high-affinity transport systems. Iron carried on ferrioxamine B, triacethyl-fusarinine, ferrichrome, or ferricrocin was actively taken up via a high-affinity mechanism. The kinetic parameters of uptake were similar to those found in S. cerevisiae. Furthermore, for ferrichrome and ferrioxamine B, cellular uptake of fluorescent analogues was observed. In C. albicans, iron uptake from siderophores was regulated by iron availability, with iron deprivation inducing uptake. Serum exposure, which induces a morphogenic shift from yeast to filamentous forms known to be required for virulence, also resulted in induction of iron transport from ferrichrome-type siderophores. In a tup1/tup1 strain which grows constitutively in the filamentous form, iron transport was derepressed for all siderophores tested. The genes mediating uptake and utilization of iron from siderophores in C. albicans have not been identified; however, the transcript abundance for CaSIT1 was regulated in a manner consistent with the pattern of iron uptake from ferrichrome-type siderophores. Furthermore, CaSIT1 overexpression in S. cerevisiae resulted in inhibited siderophore iron uptake, suggesting that the expressed protein may interact with proteins of S. cerevisiae involved in iron uptake from siderophores. In summary, iron uptake from ferrichrome-type siderophores was induced in filamentous C. albicans, and a potential role of this iron acquisition system in pathogenicity should be considered.
Copyright 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.