Ascorbic acid inhibition of Candida albicans Hsp90-mediated morphogenesis occurs via the transcriptional regulator Upc2

Eukaryot Cell. 2014 Oct;13(10):1278-89. doi: 10.1128/EC.00096-14. Epub 2014 Aug 1.


Morphogenetic transitions of the opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans are influenced by temperature changes, with induction of filamentation upon a shift from 30 to 37°C. Hsp90 was identified as a major repressor of an elongated cell morphology at low temperatures, as treatment with specific inhibitors of Hsp90 results in elongated growth forms at 30°C. Elongated growth resulting from a compromised Hsp90 is considered neither hyphal nor pseudohyphal growth. It has been reported that ascorbic acid (vitamin C) interferes with the yeast-to-hypha transition in C. albicans. In the present study, we show that ascorbic acid also antagonizes the morphogenetic change caused by hampered Hsp90 function. Further analysis revealed that Upc2, a transcriptional regulator of genes involved in ergosterol biosynthesis, and Erg11, the target of azole antifungals, whose expression is in turn regulated by Upc2, are required for this antagonism. Ergosterol levels correlate with elongated growth and are reduced in cells treated with the Hsp90 inhibitor geldanamycin (GdA) and restored by cotreatment with ascorbic acid. In addition, we show that Upc2 appears to be required for ascorbic acid-mediated inhibition of the antifungal activity of fluconazole. These results identify Upc2 as a major regulator of ascorbic acid-induced effects in C. albicans and suggest an association between ergosterol content and elongated growth upon Hsp90 compromise.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Benzoquinones / pharmacology
  • Candida albicans / drug effects
  • Candida albicans / genetics*
  • Candida albicans / metabolism
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / biosynthesis*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics
  • Drug Resistance, Fungal / genetics
  • Ergosterol / biosynthesis
  • Fluconazole / pharmacology
  • Fungal Proteins / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal / drug effects
  • HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Hyphae / drug effects
  • Hyphae / genetics
  • Lactams, Macrocyclic / pharmacology
  • Morphogenesis / genetics*
  • Temperature
  • Trans-Activators / biosynthesis*
  • Trans-Activators / genetics


  • Benzoquinones
  • Fungal Proteins
  • HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Lactams, Macrocyclic
  • Trans-Activators
  • Fluconazole
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Ergosterol
  • geldanamycin