Accessibility and contribution to glucan masking of natural and genetically tagged versions of yeast wall protein 1 of Candida albicans


Bruce L. Granger


PLoS One


Yeast wall protein 1 (Ywp1) is an abundant glycoprotein of the cell wall of the yeast form of Candida albicans, the most prevalent fungal pathogen of humans. Antibodies that bind to the polypeptide backbone of isolated Ywp1 show little binding to intact yeast cells, presumably because the Ywp1 epitopes are masked by the polysaccharides of the mannoproteins that form the outer layer of the cell wall. Rare cells do exhibit much greater anti-Ywp1 binding, however, and one of these was isolated and characterized. No differences were seen in its Ywp1, but it exhibited greater adhesiveness, sensitivity to wall perturbing agents, and exposure of its underlying ?-1,3-glucan layer to external antibodies. The molecular basis for this greater epitope accessibility has not been determined, but has facilitated exploration of how these properties change as a function of cell growth and morphology. In addition, previously engineered strains with reduced quantities of Ywp1 in their cell walls were also found to have greater ?-1,3-glucan exposure, indicating that Ywp1 itself contributes to the masking of wall epitopes, which may be important for understanding the anti-adhesive effect of Ywp1. Ectopic production of Ywp1 by hyphae, which reduces the adhesivity of these filamentous forms of C. albicans, was similarly found to reduce exposure of the ?-1,3-glucan in their walls. To monitor Ywp1 in the cell wall irrespective of its accessibility, green fluorescent protein (Gfp) was genetically inserted into wall-anchored Ywp1 using a bifunctional cassette that also allowed production from a single transfection of a soluble, anchor-free version. The wall-anchored Ywp1-Gfp-Ywp1 accumulated in the wall of the yeast forms but not hyphae, and appeared to have properties similar to native Ywp1, including its adhesion-inhibiting effect. Some pseudohyphal walls also detectably accumulated this probe. Strains of C. albicans with tandem hemagglutinin (HA) epitopes inserted into wall-anchored Ywp1 were previously created by others, and were further explored here. As above, rare cells with much greater accessibility of the HA epitopes were isolated, and also found to exhibit greater exposure of Ywp1 and ?-1,3-glucan. The placement of the HA cassette inhibited the normal N-glycosylation and propeptide cleavage of Ywp1, but the wall-anchored Ywp1-HA-Ywp1 still accumulated in the cell wall of yeast forms. Bifunctional transformation cassettes were used to additionally tag these molecules with Gfp, generating soluble Ywp1-HA-Gfp and wall-anchored Ywp1-HA-Gfp-Ywp1 molecules. The former revealed unexpected electrophoretic properties caused by the HA insertion, while the latter further highlighted differences between the presence of a tagged Ywp1 molecule (as revealed by Gfp fluorescence) and its accessibility in the cell wall to externally applied antibodies specific for HA, Gfp and Ywp1, with accessibility being greatest in the rapidly expanding walls of budding daughter cells. These strains and results increase our understanding of cell wall properties and how C. albicans masks itself from recognition by the human immune system.



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