Mechanism For Fungal Adherence Found, Possible Key To Disease

professor of medical microbiology and immunology at Ohio State University, and Janet Staab, a postdoctoral fellow in the same department, wanted to discover how Candida can become so prolific.

The organism usually grows in yeast form by budding. But when conditions are right -- as they are in the human body in immune-suppressed patients -- Candida albicans grows by sending off filaments, spreading across and penetrating into epithelial, or skin, cells like ivy across the backyard. Sundstrom focused their research on how these filaments were able to adhere so strongly to the mucosal epithelial cells, fostering the filaments' growth.

"We believe that the purpose of this adhesion is simply so that the organism can stay put and not be washed away by fluids within the GI tract," she said. "The invasive behavior of these filaments caused me to start looking for specific proteins in the Candida filaments when I was a graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle."

Earlier work had led her to identify a specific gene responsible for producing a protein that can become linked to other proteins using an enzyme called transglutaminase. The protein serves as a substrate, or anchor, upon which the enzyme can build larger, essential molecules.

Transglutaminases are well-known mammalian enzymes, although they are rare or absent in fungi. But in Candida, the rese

Contact: Paula Sundstrom
Ohio State University

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