Metabolic differentiation of surface and invasive cells of yeast colony biofilms revealed by gene expression profiling

BMC Genomics. 2017 Oct 23;18(1):814. doi: 10.1186/s12864-017-4214-4.


Background: Yeast infections are often connected with formation of biofilms that are extremely difficult to eradicate. An excellent model system for deciphering multifactorial determinants of yeast biofilm development is the colony biofilm, composed of surface ("aerial") and invasive ("root") cells. While surface cells have been partially analyzed before, we know little about invasive root cells. In particular, information on the metabolic, chemical and morphogenetic properties of invasive versus surface cells is lacking. In this study, we used a new strategy to isolate invasive cells from agar and extracellular matrix, and employed it to perform genome wide expression profiling and biochemical analyses of surface and invasive cells.

Results: RNA sequencing revealed expression differences in 1245 genes with high statistical significance, indicating large genetically regulated metabolic differences between surface and invasive cells. Functional annotation analyses implicated genes involved in stress defense, peroxisomal fatty acid β-oxidation, autophagy, protein degradation, storage compound metabolism and meiosis as being important in surface cells. In contrast, numerous genes with functions in nutrient transport and diverse synthetic metabolic reactions, including genes involved in ribosome biogenesis, biosynthesis and translation, were found to be important in invasive cells. Variation in gene expression correlated significantly with cell-type specific processes such as autophagy and storage compound accumulation as identified by microscopic and biochemical analyses. Expression profiling also provided indications of cell-specific regulations. Subsequent knockout strain analyses identified Gip2p, a regulatory subunit of type 1 protein phosphatase Glc7p, to be essential for glycogen accumulation in surface cells.

Conclusions: This is the first study reporting genome wide differences between surface and invasive cells of yeast colony biofilms. New findings show that surface and invasive cells display very different physiology, adapting to different conditions in different colony areas and contributing to development and survival of the colony biofilm as a whole. Notably, surface and invasive cells of colony biofilms differ significantly from upper and lower cells of smooth colonies adapted to plentiful laboratory conditions.

Keywords: Cell differentiation; Colony biofilms; Invasive cell subpopulation; Regulation of glycogen metabolism; Saccharomyces cerevisiae; Transcriptomics.

MeSH terms

  • Biofilms*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal*
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / physiology*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / metabolism*


  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins