Theory predicts that stress is a key factor in explaining the evolutionary role of sex in facultatively sexual organisms, including microorganisms. Organisms capable of reproducing both sexually and asexually are expected to mate more frequently when stressed, and such stress-induced mating is predicted to facilitate adaptation. Here, we propose that stress has an analogous effect on the parasexual cycle in Candida albicans, which involves alternation of generations between diploid and tetraploid cells. The parasexual cycle can generate high levels of diversity, including aneuploidy, yet it apparently occurs only rarely in nature. We review the evidence that stress facilitates four major steps in the parasexual cycle and suggest that parasex occurs much more frequently under stress conditions. This may explain both the evolutionary significance of parasex and its apparent rarity.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.