The calcium-activated protein phosphatase calcineurin plays a critical role in the virulence of Candida albicans. Previous studies demonstrated that calcineurin is not required for the yeast-hypha dimorphic transition, host cell adherence, or host cell injury, which are all established virulence attributes of this organism. Calcineurin is, however, essential for survival in serum and disseminated infection. Here we identify the component of serum that is toxic to calcineurin mutant cells. Proteins, peptides, lipids, and other hydrophobic components were all excluded as essential toxic elements. Upon testing of small molecules present in serum, we discovered that calcineurin protects cells from stress caused by the endogenous levels of calcium ions present in serum. These studies illustrate how calcineurin functions in a calcium homeostatic pathway that enables a common human commensal to survive passage through the hostile environment of the bloodstream to establish deep-seated infections and cause disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases