White-opaque switching in Candida albicans is controlled by mating-type locus homeodomain proteins and allows efficient mating

Cell. 2002 Aug 9;110(3):293-302. doi: 10.1016/s0092-8674(02)00837-1.


Discovered over a decade ago, white-opaque switching in the human fungal pathogen Candida albicans is an alternation between two quasistable, heritable transcriptional states. Here, we show that white-opaque switching and sexual mating are both controlled by mating type locus homeodomain proteins and that opaque cells mate approximately 10(6) times more efficiently than do white cells. These results show that opaque cells are a mating-competent form of C. albicans and that this pathogen undergoes a white-to-opaque switch as a critical step in the mating process. As white cells are generally more robust in a mammalian host than are opaque cells, this strategy allows the organism to survive the rigors of life within a mammalian host, yet generate mating-competent cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Candida albicans / cytology
  • Candida albicans / genetics*
  • Candida albicans / metabolism
  • Cell Communication / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics*
  • Cell Size / genetics
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal / physiology*
  • Gene Targeting
  • Genes, Fungal / genetics*
  • Genes, Mating Type, Fungal*
  • Genes, Regulator / genetics*
  • Genes, Switch / genetics*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Genetic / genetics
  • Reproduction / genetics*
  • Signal Transduction / genetics


  • Homeodomain Proteins