Generational distribution of a Candida glabrata population: Resilient old cells prevail, while younger cells dominate in the vulnerable host

Tejas Bouklas, Luz Alonso-Crisóstomo, Tamás Székely, Elizabeth Diago-Navarro, Erika P. Orner, Kalie Smith, Mansa A. Munshi, Maurizio Del Poeta, Gábor Balázsi, Bettina C. Fries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Similar to other yeasts, the human pathogen Candida glabrata ages when it undergoes asymmetric, finite cell divisions, which determines its replicative lifespan. We sought to investigate if and how aging changes resilience of C. glabrata populations in the host environment. Our data demonstrate that old C. glabrata are more resistant to hydrogen peroxide and neutrophil killing, whereas young cells adhere better to epithelial cell layers. Consequently, virulence of old compared to younger C. glabrata cells is enhanced in the Galleria mellonella infection model. Electron microscopy images of old C. glabrata cells indicate a marked increase in cell wall thickness. Comparison of transcriptomes of old and young C. glabrata cells reveals differential regulation of ergosterol and Hog pathway associated genes as well as adhesion proteins, and suggests that aging is accompanied by remodeling of the fungal cell wall. Biochemical analysis supports this conclusion as older cells exhibit a qualitatively different lipid composition, leading to the observed increased emergence of fluconazole resistance when grown in the presence of fluconazole selection pressure. Older C. glabrata cells accumulate during murine and human infection, which is statistically unlikely without very strong selection. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that neutrophils constitute the predominant selection pressure in vivo. When we altered experimentally the selection pressure by antibody-mediated removal of neutrophils, we observed a significantly younger pathogen population in mice. Mathematical modeling confirmed that differential selection of older cells is sufficient to cause the observed demographic shift in the fungal population. Hence our data support the concept that pathogenesis is affected by the generational age distribution of the infecting C. glabrata population in a host. We conclude that replicative aging constitutes an emerging trait, which is selected by the host and may even play an unanticipated role in the transition from a commensal to a pathogen state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1006355
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Virology


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