N-acetylglucosamine induces white to opaque switching, a mating prerequisite in Candida albicans

PLoS Pathog. 2010 Mar 12;6(3):e1000806. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1000806.


To mate, the fungal pathogen Candida albicans must undergo homozygosis at the mating-type locus and then switch from the white to opaque phenotype. Paradoxically, opaque cells were found to be unstable at physiological temperature, suggesting that mating had little chance of occurring in the host, the main niche of C. albicans. Recently, however, it was demonstrated that high levels of CO(2), equivalent to those found in the host gastrointestinal tract and select tissues, induced the white to opaque switch at physiological temperature, providing a possible resolution to the paradox. Here, we demonstrate that a second signal, N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc), a monosaccharide produced primarily by gastrointestinal tract bacteria, also serves as a potent inducer of white to opaque switching and functions primarily through the Ras1/cAMP pathway and phosphorylated Wor1, the gene product of the master switch locus. Our results therefore suggest that signals produced by bacterial co-members of the gastrointestinal tract microbiota regulate switching and therefore mating of C. albicans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylglucosamine / metabolism*
  • Adenylyl Cyclases / genetics
  • Adenylyl Cyclases / metabolism
  • Candida albicans / genetics
  • Candida albicans / growth & development*
  • Candida albicans / metabolism*
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases / genetics
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases, Type 2 / genetics
  • Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Fungal Proteins / genetics
  • Fungal Proteins / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Genes, Mating Type, Fungal / physiology*
  • Genes, Switch / physiology
  • Phosphorylation / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Temperature
  • ras Proteins / metabolism


  • Fungal Proteins
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases, Type 2
  • ras Proteins
  • Adenylyl Cyclases
  • Acetylglucosamine