The contribution of Candida albicans vacuolar ATPase subunit V1B encoded by VMA2 to stress response, autophagy, and virulence is independent of environmental pH.
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Candida albicans vacuoles are central to many critical biological processes, including filamentation and in vivo virulence. The V-ATPase proton pump is a multi-subunit complex responsible for organellar acidification and is essential for vacuolar biogenesis and function. To study the function of the V1B subunit of C. albicans V-ATPase, we constructed a tetracycline-regulatable VMA2 mutant, tetR-VMA2. Inhibition of VMA2 expression resulted in the inability to grow at alkaline pH and altered resistance to calcium, cold temperature, antifungal drugs and growth on non-fermentable carbon sources. Furthermore, V-ATPase was unable to fully assemble at the vacuolar membrane and was impaired in proton transport and ATPase-specific activity. VMA2 repression led to vacuolar alkalinization in addition to abnormal vacuolar morphology and biogenesis. Key virulence-related traits including filamentation and secretion of degradative enzymes were markedly inhibited. These results are consistent with previous studies of C. albicans V-ATPase; however, differential contributions of the V-ATPase Vo and V1 subunits to filamentation and secretion are observed. We also make the novel observation that inhibition of C. albicans V-ATPase results in increased susceptibility to osmotic stress. Notably, V-ATPase inhibition under conditions of nitrogen starvation results in defects in autophagy. Lastly, we show the first evidence that V-ATPase contributes to virulence in an acidic in vivo system by demonstrating that the tetR-VMA2 mutant is avirulent in a Caenorhabditis elegans infection model. This study illustrates the fundamental requirement of V-ATPase for numerous key virulence-related traits in C. albicans and demonstrates that the contribution of V-ATPase to virulence is independent of host pH.Copyright © 2014, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.