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Applied and environmental microbiology

Diverse nitrogen sources in seminal fluid act in synergy to induce filamentous growth of Candida albicans.


PMID 25662979

Abstract

The pathogenic fungus Candida albicans is the leading cause of vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC). VVC represents a major quality-of-life issue for women during their reproductive years, a stage of life where the vaginal epithelium is subject to periodic hormonally induced changes associated with menstruation and concomitant exposure to serum as well as potential intermittent contact with seminal fluid. Seminal fluid potently triggers Candida albicans to switch from yeastlike to filamentous modes of growth, a developmental response tightly linked to virulence. Conversely, vaginal fluid inhibits filamentation. Here, we used artificial formulations of seminal and vaginal fluids that faithfully mimic genuine fluids to assess the contribution of individual components within these fluids to filamentation. The high levels of albumin, amino acids, and N-acetylglucosamine in seminal fluid act synergistically as potent inducers of filamentous growth, even at atmospheric levels of CO2 and reduced temperatures (30 °C). Using a simplified in vitro model that mimics the natural introduction of seminal fluid into the vulvovaginal environment, a pulse of artificial seminal fluid (ASF) was found to exert an enduring potential to overcome the inhibitory efficacy of artificial vaginal fluid (AVF) on filamentation. These findings suggest that a transient but substantial change in the nutrient levels within the vulvovaginal environment during unprotected coitus can induce resident C. albicans cells to engage developmental programs associated with virulent growth.