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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Involvement of the mitogen activated protein kinase Hog1p in the response of Candida albicans to iron availability

Hani EJ Kaba1, Manfred Nimtz2, Peter P Müller3 and Ursula Bilitewski1*

Author affiliations

1 Working Group Biological Systems Analysis, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Inhoffenstr. 7, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany

2 Working Group Cellular Proteomics, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Inhoffenstr. 7, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany

3 Department Gene Regulation and Differentiation, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Inhoffenstr. 7, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany

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Citation and License

BMC Microbiology 2013, 13:16  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-13-16

Published: 24 January 2013

Abstract

Background

Iron is an essential nutrient for almost all organisms, and generating iron limiting conditions for pathogens is one of the host defense strategies against microbial infections. Excess of iron can be toxic; therefore, iron uptake is tightly controlled. The high affinity iron uptake system of the opportunistic pathogenic yeast Candida albicans has been shown to be essential for virulence. Several transcription factors and regulators of iron uptake genes were identified, but the knowledge of signaling pathways is still limited. Gene expression profiling of the Δhog1 deletion mutant indicated an involvement of the mitogen activated protein (MAP) kinase Hog1p. However, the function of Hog1p in the response of C. albicans to iron availability was not studied in detail. Thus, we analyzed phenotypic and molecular responses of C. albicans to different iron concentrations particularly with respect to the activity of the Hog1p MAP kinase module.

Results

We observed flocculation of yeast cells, when the iron ion concentration was equal to or higher than 5 μM. This phenotype was dependent on the MAP kinase Hog1p and the corresponding MAP kinase kinase Pbs2p. Moreover, high extracellular iron ion concentrations led to hyper-phosphorylation of Hog1p. We determined lower amounts of multicopper ferroxidase (MCFO) proteins and lower ferric reductase activity, when the iron ion concentration in the medium was increased. This effect was also observed for the Δhog1 mutant. However, the amounts of MCFO proteins and the cell surface ferric reductase activity were increased in the Δhog1 in comparison to wild type cells. This effect was independent of iron availability in growth media.

Conclusions

In C. albicans, the MAP kinase Hog1p is part of the network regulating the response of the organism to iron availability. Hog1p was transiently phosphorylated under high iron concentrations and was essential for a flocculent phenotype. Furthermore, deletion of HOG1 led to increased levels of components of the reductive iron uptake system in comparison to the wild-type, independent of iron concentrations in the media. However, the additional induction of this system by low iron concentrations was independent of HOG1.

Keywords:
Candida albicans; HOG pathway; Iron; Flocculation; Multicopper ferroxidases; Ferric reductases