The conserved family of fungal Ste20 p21-activated serine-threonine protein kinases regulate several signalling cascades. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae Ste20 is involved in pheromone signalling, invasive growth, the hypertonic stress response, cell wall integrity and binds Cdc42, a Rho-like small GTP-binding protein required for polarized morphogenesis. We have cloned the STE20 homologue from the fungal pathogen Candida glabrata and have shown that it is present in a single copy in the genome. Translation of the nucleotide sequence predicts that C. glabrata Ste20 contains a highly conserved p21-activated serine-threonine protein kinase domain, a binding site for G-protein beta subunits and a regulatory Rho-binding domain that enables the kinase to interact with Cdc42 and/or Rho-like small GTPases. C. glabrata Ste20 has 53% identity and 58% predicted amino acid similarity to S. cerevisiae Ste20 and can complement both the nitrogen starvation-induced filamentation and mating defects of S. cerevisiae ste20 mutants. Analysis of ste20 null and disrupted strains suggest that in C. glabrata Ste20 is required for a fully functional hypertonic stress response and intact cell wall integrity pathway. C. glabrata Ste20 is not required for nitrogen starvation-induced filamentation. Survival analysis revealed that C. glabrata ste20 mutants, while still able to cause disease, are mildly attenuated for virulence compared to reconstituted STE20 cells.
Copyright 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.