White cells facilitate opposite- and same-sex mating of opaque cells in Candida albicans.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1004737
Modes of sexual reproduction in eukaryotic organisms are extremely diverse. The human fungal pathogen Candida albicans undergoes a phenotypic switch from the white to the opaque phase in order to become mating-competent. In this study, we report that functionally- and morphologically-differentiated white and opaque cells show a coordinated behavior during mating. Although white cells are mating-incompetent, they can produce sexual pheromones when treated with pheromones of the opposite mating type or by physically interacting with opaque cells of the opposite mating type. In a co-culture system, pheromones released by white cells induce opaque cells to form mating projections, and facilitate both opposite- and same-sex mating of opaque cells. Deletion of genes encoding the pheromone precursor proteins and inactivation of the pheromone response signaling pathway (Ste2-MAPK-Cph1) impair the promoting role of white cells (MTLa) in the sexual mating of opaque cells. White and opaque cells communicate via a paracrine pheromone signaling system, creating an environment conducive to sexual mating. This coordination between the two different cell types may be a trade-off strategy between sexual and asexual lifestyles in C. albicans.