Fungal wall formation is a dynamic process involving several categories of enzymes. The GH72 family of β(1,3)-glucanosyltransferases is essential for the determination of cell shape, for cell integrity and for virulence in pathogenic fungi. Candida albicans has five GH72 genes: PHR1 and PHR2 are pH dependent, the first being expressed at pH ≥ 6 and repressed at lower pH and the second regulated in the opposite manner, PGA4 is transcribed independently of pH whereas PHR3 and PGA5 have low expression levels. To characterize the catalytic properties of Phr1p-2p and probe the activity of Pga4p, we heterologously expressed these proteins and used a fluorescent assay based on the transfer of oligosaccharyl units from a donor to a sulforhodamine-labeled acceptor. Phr1p-2p used exclusively β-1,3-glucan or cell wall glucan as donor and laminarin-derived oligosaccharides as acceptor. The acceptor efficiency increased with the length of the oligosaccharide. The temperature optimum was 30°C. The pH optimum was 5.8 for Phr1p and 3 for Phr2p. Overall, adaptation to pH of C. albicans appears to involve a fine interplay among the pH-dependent activity of Phr1p and Phr2p, the pH-regulated expression of their genes and protein stability. Unexpectedly, Pga4p was inactive suggesting that it turned into a structural mannoprotein.
Keywords: Pichia pastoris expression; family GH72; fungal pathogens; glucanosyltransferases; morphogenesis; pH adaptation.
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