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A biofilm is a surface-associated population of microorganisms embedded in a matrix of extracellular polymeric substances. Biofilms are a major natural growth form of microorganisms and the cause of pervasive device-associated infection. This report focuses on the biofilm matrix of Candida albicans, the major fungal pathogen of humans. We report here that the C. albicans zinc-response transcription factor Zap1 is a negative regulator of a major matrix component, soluble Î²-1,3 glucan, in both in vitro and in vivo biofilm models. To understand the mechanistic relationship between Zap1 and matrix, we identified Zap1 target genes through expression profiling and full genome chromatin immunoprecipitation. On the basis of these results, we designed additional experiments showing that two glucoamylases, Gca1 and Gca2, have positive roles in matrix production and may function through hydrolysis of insoluble Î²-1,3 glucan chains. We also show that a group of alcohol dehydrogenases Adh5, Csh1, and Ifd6 have roles in matrix production: Adh5 acts positively, and Csh1 and Ifd6, negatively. We propose that these alcohol dehydrogenases generate quorum-sensing aryl and acyl alcohols that in turn govern multiple events in biofilm maturation. Our findings define a novel regulatory circuit and its mechanism of control of a process central to infection.
A biofilm is a surface-associated population of microbes that is embedded in a cement of extracellular compounds. This cement is known as matrix. The two main functions of matrix are to protect cells from their surrounding environment, preventing drugs and other stresses from penetrating the biofilm, and to maintain the architectural stability of the biofilm, acting as a glue to hold the cells together. The presence of matrix is a contributing factor to the high degree of resistance to antimicrobial drugs observed in biofilms. Because biofilms have a major impact on human health, and because matrix is such a pivotal component of biofilms, it is important to understand how the production of matrix is regulated. We have begun to address this question in the major human fungal pathogen Candida albicans. We found that the zinc-responsive regulatory protein Zap1 controls the expression of several genes important for matrix formation in C. albicans. These target genes encode glucoamylases and alcohol dehydrogenases, enzymes that probably govern the synthesis of distinct matrix constituents. The findings here offer insight into the metabolic processes that contribute to biofilm formation and indicate that Zap1 functions broadly as a negative regulator of biofilm maturation.
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