Ecm33p is a widely distributed fungal protein with functional relevance, clearly demonstrated by ecm33Delta mutant phenotypes, mainly related to the cell wall. Homology searches with Saccharomyces cerevisiae genes identified Candida albicans Ecm33p, as well as the two other proteins of its family: Pst1p and the product of YCL048w. C. albicans Ecm33p is a 423 aa protein which has the typical features of cell-surface GPI proteins and is able to complement S. cerevisiae ecm33Delta cell wall defects. Heterozygous (RML1) and homozygous (RML2) mutants of CaECM33 were obtained, as well as a single and a double reintegrant (RML3 and RML4, respectively). Caecm33 mutant strains displayed an aberrant morphology, being more rounded and bigger than the wild-type, suggesting morphogenetic defects. They also exhibited cell wall defects, with enhanced sensitivity to different compounds that interfere in polymerization of cell wall components (Calcofluor white, Congo red and hygromycin B) and a marked tendency to flocculate extensively. In addition, CaEcm33p is required for normal C. albicans yeast-to-hyphae transition in vitro. In liquid medium (5 % serum), the transition was delayed in Caecm33 mutants, and after 24 h the culture contained very abnormal large and rounded cells. On solid medium (10 % serum, Spider or SLADH) RML2 failed to produce hyphae and media invasiveness. CaECM33 showed a gene dosage effect, demonstrated by the intermediate phenotype of the heterozygous mutants RML1 and confirmed by Northern blot analysis. Furthermore, CaEcm33p is also involved in C. albicans virulence. In a murine systemic model of infection, 100 % mouse survival and no kidney or brain colonization were obtained 30 days after infection with 10(6) Candida cells of any homozygous or heterozygous Caecm33Delta mutant tested. In contrast, all mice infected with parental or RML4 (two CaECM33 copies reintegrated) strains died in a few days, showing that, in these conditions, two CaECM33 copies were required for virulence.