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S. oralis activates the Efg1 filamentation pathway in C. albicans to promote cross-kingdom interactions and mucosal biofilms


Candida albicans and Streptococcus oralis are ubiquitous oral commensal organisms. Under host-permissive conditions these organisms can form hypervirulent mucosal biofilms. C. albicans biofilm formation is controlled by 6 master transcriptional regulators: Bcr1, Brg1, Efg1, Tec1, Ndt80, and Rob1. The objective of this work was to test whether any of these regulators play a role in cross-kingdom interactions between C. albicans and S. oralis in oral mucosal biofilms, and identify downstream target gene(s) that promote these interactions. Organotypic mucosal constructs and a mouse model of oropharyngeal infection were used to analyze mucosal biofilm growth and fungal gene expression. By screening 6 C. albicans transcription regulator reporter strains we discovered that EFG1 was strongly activated by interaction with S. oralis in late biofilm growth stages. EFG1 gene expression was increased in polymicrobial biofilms on abiotic surfaces, mucosal constructs and tongue tissues of mice infected with both organisms. EFG1 was required for robust Candida-streptococcal biofilm growth in organotypic constructs and mouse oral tissues. S. oralis stimulated C. albicans ALS1 gene expression in an EFG1-dependent manner, and Als1 was identified as a downstream effector of the Efg1 pathway which promoted C. albicans-S. oralis coaggregation interactions in mixed biofilms. We conclude that S. oralis induces an increase in EFG1 expression in C. albicans in late biofilm stages. This in turn increases expression of ALS1, which promotes coaggregation interactions and mucosal biofilm growth. Our work provides novel insights on C. albicans genes which play a role in cross-kingdom interactions with S. oralis in mucosal biofilms.

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