Candida albicans and Candida tropicalis are opportunistic fungal pathogens that can transition between white and opaque phenotypic states. White and opaque cells differ both morphologically and in their responses to environmental signals. In C. albicans, opaque cells respond to sexual pheromones by undergoing conjugation, while white cells are induced by pheromones to form sexual biofilms. Here, we show that sexual biofilm formation also occurs in C. tropicalis but, unlike C. albicans, biofilms are formed exclusively by opaque cells. C. tropicalis biofilm formation was dependent on the pheromone receptors Ste2 and Ste3, confirming the role of pheromone signalling in sexual biofilm development. Structural analysis of C. tropicalis sexual biofilms revealed stratified communities consisting of a basal layer of yeast cells and an upper layer of filamentous cells, together with an extracellular matrix. Transcriptional profiling showed that genes involved in pheromone signalling and conjugation were upregulated in sexual biofilms. Furthermore, FGR23, which encodes an agglutinin-like protein, was found to enhance both mating and sexual biofilm formation. Together, these studies reveal that C. tropicalis opaque cells form sexual biofilms with a complex architecture, and suggest a conserved role for sexual agglutinins in mediating mating, cell cohesion and biofilm formation.
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.