Two-component signal transduction pathways are one of the primary means by which microorganisms respond to environmental signals. These signaling cascades originated in prokaryotes and were inherited by eukaryotes via endosymbiotic lateral gene transfer from ancestral cyanobacteria. We report here that the nuclear genome of the pathogenic fungus Candida albicans contains elements of a two-component signaling pathway that seem to be targeted to the mitochondria. The C. albicans two-component response regulator protein Srr1 (stress response regulator 1) contains a mitochondrial targeting sequence at the N terminus, and fluorescence microscopy reveals mitochondrial localization of green fluorescent protein-tagged Srr1. Moreover, phylogenetic analysis indicates that C. albicans Srr1 is more closely related to histidine kinases and response regulators found in marine bacteria than are other two-component proteins present in the fungi. These data suggest conservation of this protein during the evolutionary transition from endosymbiont to a subcellular organelle. We used microarray analysis to determine whether the phenotypes observed with a srr1Δ/Δ mutant could be correlated with gene transcriptional changes. The expression of mitochondrial genes was altered in the srr1Δ/Δ null mutant in comparison to their expression in the wild type. Furthermore, apoptosis increased significantly in the srr1Δ/Δ mutant strain compared to the level of apoptosis in the wild type, suggesting the activation of a mitochondrion-dependent apoptotic cell death pathway in the srr1Δ/Δ mutant. Collectively, this study shows for the first time that a lower eukaryote like C. albicans possesses a two-component response regulator protein that has survived in mitochondria and regulates a subset of genes whose functions are associated with the oxidative stress response and programmed cell death (apoptosis).
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology