Candida albicans VMA3 is necessary for V-ATPase assembly and function and contributes to secretion and filamentation.
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The vacuolar membrane ATPase (V-ATPase) is a protein complex that utilizes ATP hydrolysis to drive protons from the cytosol into the vacuolar lumen, acidifying the vacuole and modulating several key cellular response systems in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. To study the contribution of V-ATPase to the biology and virulence attributes of the opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans, we created a conditional mutant in which VMA3 was placed under the control of a tetracycline-regulated promoter (tetR-VMA3 strain). Repression of VMA3 in the tetR-VMA3 strain prevents V-ATPase assembly at the vacuolar membrane and reduces concanamycin A-sensitive ATPase-specific activity and proton transport by more than 90%. Loss of C. albicans V-ATPase activity alkalinizes the vacuolar lumen and has pleiotropic effects, including pH-dependent growth, calcium sensitivity, and cold sensitivity. The tetR-VMA3 strain also displays abnormal vacuolar morphology, indicative of defective vacuolar membrane fission. The tetR-VMA3 strain has impaired aspartyl protease and lipase secretion, as well as attenuated virulence in an in vitro macrophage killing model. Repression of VMA3 suppresses filamentation, and V-ATPase-dependent filamentation defects are not rescued by overexpression of RIM8, MDS3, EFG1, CST20, or UME6, which encode positive regulators of filamentation. Specific chemical inhibition of Vma3p function also results in defective filamentation. These findings suggest either that V-ATPase functions downstream of these transcriptional regulators or that V-ATPase function during filamentation involves independent mechanisms and alternative signaling pathways. Taken together, these data indicate that V-ATPase activity is a fundamental requirement for several key virulence-associated traits in C. albicans.