Calcineurin A of Candida albicans: involvement in antifungal tolerance, cell morphogenesis and virulence

Mol Microbiol. 2003 May;48(4):959-76. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2003.03495.x.


The azole antifungal fluconazole possesses only fungistatic activity in Candida albicans and, therefore, this human pathogen is tolerant to this agent. However, tolerance to fluconazole can be inhibited when C. albicans is exposed to fluconazole combined with the immunosuppressive drug cyclosporin A, which is known to inhibit calcineurin activity in yeast. A mutant lacking both alleles of a gene encoding the calcineurin A subunit (CNA) lost viability in the presence of fluconazole, thus making calcineurin essential for fluconazole tolerance. Consistent with this observation, tolerance to fluconazole was modulated by calcium ions or by the expression of a calcineurin A derivative autoactivated by the removal of its C-terminal inhibitory domain. Interestingly, CNA was also essential for tolerance to other antifungal agents (voriconazole, itraconazole, terbinafine, amorolfine) and to several other metabolic inhibitors (caffeine, brefeldin A, mycophenolic acid, fluphenazine) or cell wall-perturbing agents (SDS, calcofluor white, Congo red), thus indicating that the calcineurin pathway plays an important role in the survival of C. albicans in the presence of external growth inhibitors. Several genes, including PMC1, a vacuolar calcium P-type ATPase, were regulated in a calcineurin- and fluconazole-dependent manner. However, PMC1 did not play a direct role in the survival of C. albicans when exposed to fluconazole. In addition to these different properties, calcineurin was found to affect colony morphology in several media known to modulate the C. albicans dimorphic switch. In particular, calcineurin was found to be essential for C. albicans viability in serum-containing media. Finally, calcineurin was found to be necessary for the virulence of C. albicans in a mice model of infection, thus making calcineurin an important element for adequate adaptation to the conditions of the host environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology*
  • Blotting, Southern
  • Calcineurin / physiology*
  • Calcineurin Inhibitors
  • Candida albicans / drug effects*
  • Candida albicans / pathogenicity
  • Candida albicans / physiology
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / physiology*
  • Fluconazole / pharmacology*
  • Gene Deletion
  • Genes, Fungal
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Morphogenesis
  • Virulence / genetics


  • Antifungal Agents
  • Calcineurin Inhibitors
  • Fluconazole
  • Calcineurin