A family of oligopeptide transporters is required for growth of Candida albicans on proteins

Mol Microbiol. 2006 May;60(3):795-812. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2006.05136.x.


The human fungal pathogen Candida albicans can use proteins as the sole source of nitrogen for growth. The secretion of aspartic proteinases, which have been shown to contribute to virulence of C. albicans, allows the fungus to digest host proteins to produce peptides that must be taken up into the cell by specific transporters. To understand in more detail how C. albicans utilizes proteins as a nitrogen source, we undertook a comprehensive analysis of oligopeptide transporters encoded in the C. albicans genome. We identified eight OPT genes encoding putative oligopeptide transporters, almost all of which are represented by polymorphic alleles in strain SC5314. Expression of these genes was differentially induced when C. albicans was grown in YCB-BSA medium, which contains bovine serum albumin as the sole nitrogen source. Whereas deletion of single OPT genes in strain SC5314 did not affect its ability to utilize proteins as a nitrogen source, opt123delta triple mutants had a severe growth defect in YCB-BSA which was rescued by reintroduction of a single copy of OPT1, OPT2 or OPT3. In addition, forced expression of OPT4 or OPT5 under control of the ADH1 promoter also restored growth of an opt123delta mutant, demonstrating that at least OPT1-OPT5 encode functional peptide transporters. The various oligopeptide transporters differ in their substrate preferences, as shown by the ability of strains expressing specific OPT genes to grow on peptides of defined length and sequence. We present evidence that in addition to the known role of oligopeptide transporters in the uptake of tetra- and pentapeptides these proteins can also transport longer peptides up to at least eight amino acids in length, ensuring an efficient utilization of the various peptides produced via endoproteolytic digestion of proteins by the secreted aspartic proteinases. As even transporters encoded by polymorphic alleles of a single gene exhibited differences in their efficiency to take up specific peptides, the oligopeptide transporters represent an example for how the evolution of gene families containing differentially expressed and functionally optimized members increases the nutritional versatility and, presumably, the adaptation of C. albicans to different host niches.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Candida albicans / genetics*
  • Candida albicans / growth & development*
  • Candida albicans / metabolism
  • Fungal Proteins / genetics
  • Fungal Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family*
  • Oligopeptides / metabolism*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Fungal Proteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Oligopeptides

Associated data

  • GENBANK/DQ372671
  • GENBANK/DQ372672
  • GENBANK/DQ372673
  • GENBANK/DQ372674
  • GENBANK/DQ372675
  • GENBANK/DQ372676
  • GENBANK/DQ372677
  • GENBANK/DQ372678
  • GENBANK/DQ372679
  • GENBANK/DQ372680
  • GENBANK/DQ372681
  • GENBANK/DQ372682