Mating in Candida albicans and the search for a sexual cycle

Annu Rev Microbiol. 2005;59:233-55. doi: 10.1146/annurev.micro.59.030804.121310.


Candida albicans is a normal part of the human microflora, but it is also an opportunistic fungal pathogen that causes both mucosal infections and life-threatening systemic infections. Until recently, C. albicans was thought to be asexual, existing only as an obligate diploid. However, a mating locus was identified that was homologous to those in sexually reproducing fungi, and mating of C. albicans strains was subsequently demonstrated in the laboratory. In this review, we compare and contrast the mating process in C. albicans with that of other fungi, particularly Saccharomyces cerevisiae, whose mating has been most intensively studied. Several features of the mating pathway appear unique to C. albicans, including aspects of gene regulation and cell biology, as well as the involvement of "white-opaque" switching, an alteration between two quasi-stable inheritable states. These specializations of the mating process may have evolved to promote the survival of C. albicans in the hostile environment of a mammalian host.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Candida albicans / genetics*
  • Candida albicans / physiology*
  • Fungal Proteins / genetics
  • Fungal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal*
  • Genes, Mating Type, Fungal*
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Pheromones / genetics
  • Pheromones / metabolism


  • Fungal Proteins
  • Pheromones