The role of NRG1 in the control of cellular morphogenesis in Candida albicans
This thesis describes the isolation and characterisation of the C. albicans NRG1 gene, which encodes a repressor of filamentous growth in this pathogenic fiingus. A C. albicans SBP1 cDNA was previously isolated in a screen for transacting factors that bind to a STRE-like element (consensus sequence: CCCCT) (Leng, 1999). In S. cerevisiae, STRE is a stress-responsive element that is required for the regulation of many stress-responsive genes (Marchler et al., 1993). In C. albicans, this element had been identified in the promoters of two hypha-specific genes, ALS8 and HYR1. Since many conditions that induce yeast-hypha morphogenesis in C. albicans impose a stress, it was proposed that the STRE- binding protein (Sbpl) might influence yeast-hypha morphogenesis and/or stress responses in this human pathogen. The cDNA was then used to isolate the complete C. albicans SBP1 locus by colony hybridisation. Both the cDNA and gene were sequenced, revealing an ORF capable of encoding a protein of 310 amino acids containing a C2H2-zinc finger motifs near its C-terminus. The zinc finger region of this protein displayed the highest sequence similarity to S. cerevisiae NRG1 (67 % identity), and hence the gene was renamed CaNRGl. To examine the role of CaNrgl, a C. albicans nrgl/nrgl null mutant and a mutant over-expressing the NRG1 gene were created. Overexpression of NRG1 did not reveal any obvious phenotypes, but inactivation of NRG1 caused constitutive filamentous and invasive growth, as well as increased sensitivity to some stresses. Also, the expression of the hypha-specific genes, ALS8, ECE1, HWP1 and HYR1, was derepressed in the nrgl/nrgl mutants. Similar phenotypes were observed for a C. albicans tupl/tupl null mutant. These observations suggest that Nrgl represses filamentous growth in C. albicans, possibly by recruiting Tupl to specific promoters. Unlike the tupl/tupl mutant, nrgl/nrgl cells formed normal hyphae following pH and serum stimulation, they generated chlamydospores at normal rates, and they grew at 42 C. Transcript profiling of 2002 C. albicans genes revealed that Nrgl regulates a subset of Tupl-repressed genes, which includes known hypha- specific genes and some virulence factors. The data also showed that Tupl regulates other genes, which are not regulated by Nrgl, including glucose sensitive genes, amino acid and sterol biosynthesis genes, and genes encoding other virulence determinants. Taken together, this study demonstrates that Nrgl is a transcriptional repressor that regulates a set of functions required for yeast-hypha morphogenesis and virulence in C. albicans.