The cellular response to the oxidative stress caused by hydrogen peroxide and its putative correlation with the stress protector trehalose was investigated in Candida albicans CAI.4 and the tps1/tps1 double mutant, which is deficient in trehalose synthesis. When exponential wild-type blastoconidia were exposed to high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, they displayed a high cell survival, accompanied by a marked rise of intracellular trehalose. The latter is due to a moderate activation of trehalose synthase and the concomitant inactivation of neutral trehalase. Identical challenge in the tps1/tps1 double mutant severely reduced cell viability, a phenotype which was suppressed by overexpression of the TPS1 gene. Pretreatment of growing cultures from both strains with either a low, non-lethal concentration of H(2)O(2) (0.5 mM) or a preincubation at 37 degrees C, induced an adaptive response that protected cells from being killed by a subsequent exposure to oxidative stress. During these mild oxidative preincubations, trehalose was not induced in CAI.4 cells and remained undetectable in their tps1/tps1 counterpart. Blastoconidia from the two strains exhibited a similar degree of cell protection during the adaptive response. The induction of trehalose accumulation by H(2)O(2) was not due to an increased expression of TPS1 mRNA. These results are consistent with a mainly protective role of trehalose in C. albicans during direct oxidative stress but not during acquired oxidative tolerance.