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MAP Kinase Regulation of the Candida albicans Pheromone Pathway.
Golnaz Rastghalam, Raha Parvizi Omran, Masoumeh Alizadeh, Debrah Fulton, Jaideep Mallick, Malcolm Whiteway
Department of Biology, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Published: 20 February 2019 by American Society for Microbiology in mSphere
American Society for Microbiology, Volume 4; 10.1128/mSphere.00598-18
Abstract: We investigated the relationships of the Cek1 and Cek2 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases and the putative MAP kinase phosphatase Cpp1 in the mating process of Candida albicans Mutants of the CPP1 gene are hyperresponsive to pheromone, generating large halos, high levels of projections, and an increase in pheromone-responsive gene expression. Mating-type-homozygous opaque cells that lack both kinases are sterile, consistent with previous observations, although several lines of evidence show that the two kinases do not simply provide redundant functions in the mating process. Loss of CEK1 reduces mating significantly, to about 0.3% of wild-type strains, and also reduces projection formation and pheromone-mediated gene expression. In contrast, loss of CEK2 has less of an effect, reducing mating to approximately one-third that of the wild-type strain and moderately reducing projection formation but having little influence on the induction of gene expression. However, loss of Cek2 function reduces adaptation to pheromone-mediated arrest. The mutation enhances pheromone response halos to a level similar to that of cpp1 mutants, although the cpp1 mutants are considerably more mating defective than the cek2 mutant. The double cek2 cpp1 mutant shows enhanced responsiveness relative to either single mutant in terms of gene expression and halo formation, suggesting the kinase and phosphatase roles in the adaptation process are independent. Analysis of protein phosphorylation shows that Cek1 undergoes pheromone-mediated phosphorylation of the activation loop, and this phosphorylation is enhanced in cells lacking either the Cpp1 phosphatase or the Cek2 kinase. In addition, Cek1-GFP shows enhanced nuclear localization in response to pheromone treatment. In contrast, Cek2 shows no evidence for pheromone-mediated phosphorylation or pheromone-mediated nuclear localization. Intriguingly, however, deletion of CPP1 enhances both the phosphorylation state and the nuclear localization of Cek2-GFP. Overall, these results identify a complex interaction among the MAP kinases and MAP kinase phosphatase that function in the C. albicans mating pathway.IMPORTANCE MAP kinases and their regulators are critical components of eukaryotic signaling pathways implicated in normal cell behavior as well as abnormal behaviors linked to diseases such as cancer. The mating pathway of the yeast Saccharomycescerevisiae was central in establishing the MAP kinase paradigm. Here we investigate the mating pathway in a different ascomycete, the fungal pathogen C. albicans In this dimorphic fungus MAP kinases are also implicated in the mating response, with two MAP kinases apparently playing redundant roles in the mating process. This work establishes that while some level of mating can occur in the presence of a single kinase, the Cek1 kinase is most important for mating, while the Cek2 kinase is involved in adaptation to signaling. While both kinases appear to be themselves...
Keywords: Candida albicans, MAP kinases, Gfp Fusions, Map Kinase Phosphatases, Pheromone Pathway
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