An opaque cell-specific expression program of secreted proteases and transporters allows cell-type cooperation in Candida albicans
An unusual feature of the opportunistic pathogen C. albicans is its ability to stochastically switch between two distinct, heritable cell types called white and opaque. Here, we show that only opaque cells, in response to environmental signals, massively up-regulate a specific group of secreted proteases and peptide transporters, allowing exceptionally efficient use of proteins as sources of nitrogen. We identify the specific proteases (members of the secreted aspartyl protease ( SAP ) family) needed for opaque cells to proliferate under these conditions, and we identify four transcriptional regulators of this specialized proteolysis and uptake program. We also show that, in mixed cultures, opaque cells enable white cells to also proliferate efficiently when proteins are the sole nitrogen source. Based on these observations, we suggest that one role of white-opaque switching is to create mixed populations where the different phenotypes derived from a single genome are shared between two distinct cell types.
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