Filamentous hyphae of the human pathogen, Candida albicans, invade mucosal layers and medical silicones. In vitro, hyphal tips reorient thigmotropically on contact with small obstacles. It is not known how surface topography is sensed but hyphae lacking the cortical marker, Rsr1/Bud1, are unresponsive. We show that, on surfaces, the morphology of hyphal tips and the position of internal polarity protein complexes are asymmetrically skewed towards the substratum and biased towards the softer of two surfaces. In nano-fabricated chambers, the Spitzenkörper (Spk) responded to touch by translocating across the apex towards the point of contact, where its stable maintenance correlated with contour-following growth. In the rsr1Δ mutant, the position of the Spk meandered and these responses were attenuated. Perpendicular collision caused lateral Spk oscillation within the tip until after establishment of a new growth axis, suggesting Spk position does not predict the direction of growth in C. albicans. Acute tip reorientation occurred only in cells where forward growth was countered by hyphal friction sufficient to generate a tip force of ∼ 8.7 μN (1.2 MPa), more than that required to penetrate host cell membranes. These findings suggest mechanisms through which the organization of hyphal tip growth in C. albicans facilitates the probing, penetration and invasion of host tissue.
© 2014 The Authors. Cellular Microbiology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.