Public Release:  Microbiologists find source of fungus's damaging growth

University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

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IMAGE: This is an image of hyphal Candida albicans cells. This fungus attacks patients with weakened immune systems. It also causes yeast infections and oral thrush. view more

Credit: David Kadosh, Ph.D., UT Health Science Center San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, U.S.A. (Sept. 22, 2010) - Candida albicans, a fungus that kills more than 10,000 people with weakened immune systems each year, grows more dangerous as it forms and extends long strands of cells called hyphal filaments. In a paper published this month, UT Health Science Center San Antonio microbiologists describe a key factor involved in this damaging growth.

This finding may eventually lead to targets for antifungal strategies, the scientists said.

Patricia Carlisle, a Ph.D. student at the Health Science Center, and David Kadosh, Ph.D., assistant professor of microbiology, found that Ume6, a key transcriptional regulator, targets a specific hyphal filament-development mechanism. "No one knew that Ume6 was involved in directing this process," Dr. Kadosh said. "Perhaps we can learn how to mute its signals."

Transcriptional regulators direct the conversion of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) into RNA copies. Copies of RNA (ribonucleic acid) are translated into proteins that carry out activity.

Bug's impact

Candida albicans preys on hospitalized critical care patients, HIV/AIDS patients, cancer patients and others with weakened immune systems. It is the fourth-leading cause of hospital-acquired infections in the United States.

"The forming of hyphal filaments is very important in tissue invasion and other activities," Dr. Kadosh said.

The findings were featured as a Spotlight article in the September issue of Eukaryotic Cell, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

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Related link: http://ec.asm.org/cgi/reprint/9/9/1320 (Eukaryotic Cell journal article)

About the UT Health Science Center San Antonio

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country's leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled a record $259 million in fiscal year 2009. The university's schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $739 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways "We make lives better®," visit www.uthscsa.edu.

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