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Open Access Research article

Deletion of the HAMP domains from the histidine kinase CaNik1p of Candida albicans or treatment with fungicides activates the MAP kinase Hog1p in S. cerevisiae transformants

Mohammed El-Mowafy12, Mahmoud M Bahgat34 and Ursula Bilitewski1*

Author Affiliations

1 AG Biological Systems Analysis, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI), Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany

2 Present address: Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Mansoura University, Mansoura, Egypt

3 Therapeutic Chemistry Department, Immunology and Infectious Diseases Research Group, the National Research Center, Cairo, Egypt

4 Present address: Research Group Biomarkers for Infectious Diseases, Institute for Experimental Infection Research, TWINCORE, Centre for Experimental and Clinical Infection Research, Feodor-Lynen-Str. 7, 30625 Hannover, Germany

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BMC Microbiology 2013, 13:209  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-13-209

Published: 17 September 2013

Abstract

Background

Microorganisms use two-component signal transduction (TCST) systems to regulate the response of the organism to changes of environmental conditions. Such systems are absent from mammalian cells and are thus of interest as drug targets. Fungal TCST systems are usually composed of a hybrid histidine kinase, comprising the histidine kinase (HisKA) domain and a receiver domain, a histidine phosphotransfer protein and a response regulator. Among the 11 groups of fungal histidine kinases, group III histidine kinases are of particular relevance as they are essential for the activity of different groups of fungicides. A characteristic feature is the N-terminal amino acid repeat domain comprising multiple HAMP domains, of which the function is still largely unknown. In Candida albicans, a fungal human pathogen, three histidine kinases were identified, of which CaNik1p is a group III histidine kinase. Heterologous expression of this protein in Sacchromyces cerevisiae conferred susceptibility to different fungicides. Fungicide activity was associated with phosphorylation of the mitogen activated protein kinase Hog1p.

Results

We have constructed mutated versions of CaNik1p, from which either all HAMP domains were deleted (CaNik1pΔHAMP) or in which the histidine kinase or the receiver domains were not-functional. Expression of CaNIK1ΔHAMP in S. cerevisiae led to severe growth inhibition. Normal growth could be restored by either replacing the phosphate-accepting histidine residue in CaNik1pΔHAMP or by expressing CaNIK1ΔHAMP in S. cerevisiae mutants, in which single genes encoding several components of the HOG pathway were deleted. Expression of proteins with non-functional histidine kinase or receiver domains resulted in complete loss of susceptibility to antifungals, such as fludioxonil. Conditions leading to growth inhibition of transformants also led to phosphorylation of the MAP kinase Hog1p.

Conclusion

Our results show that functional histidine kinase and receiver domains of CaNik1p were essential for antifungal susceptibility and for activation of the Hog1p. Moreover, for the first time we show that deletion of all HAMP domains from CaNik1p led to activation of Hog1p without an external stimulus. This phenotype was similar to the effects obtained upon treatment with fungicides, as in both cases growth inhibition correlated with Hog1p activation and was dependent on the functionality of the conserved phosphate-accepting histidine residue.

Keywords:
Group III histidine kinase; CaNik1p; Point mutations; Protein domains; Fludioxonil; Transformed Saccharomyces cerevisiae; HAMP domains