The pathogenic yeast Candida albicans utilizes hydroxyderivatives of benzene via the catechol and hydroxyhydroquinone branches of the 3-oxoadipate pathway. The genetic basis and evolutionary origin of this catabolic pathway in yeasts are unknown. In this study, we identified C. albicans genes encoding the enzymes involved in the degradation of hydroxybenzenes. We found that the genes coding for core components of the 3-oxoadipate pathway are arranged into two metabolic gene clusters. Our results demonstrate that C. albicans cells cultivated in media containing hydroxybenzene substrates highly induce the transcription of these genes as well as the corresponding enzymatic activities. We also found that C. albicans cells assimilating hydroxybenzenes cope with the oxidative stress by upregulation of cellular antioxidant systems such as alternative oxidase and catalase. Moreover, we investigated the evolution of the enzymes encoded by these clusters and found that most of them share a particularly sparse phylogenetic distribution among Saccharomycotina, which is likely to have been caused by extensive gene loss. We exploited this fact to find co-evolving proteins that are suitable candidates for the missing enzymes of the pathway.
Keywords: catabolism of phenols; comparative genomics; evolution of biochemical pathways; gene clustering; gene expression.
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