Candida albicans displays a high degree of specificity in selecting and adhering to targets in vivo. The features of target recognition are poorly understood and likely to involve more than the mere chemical composition of the ligand. Using an adherence assay in which protein and peptide ligands are covalently coupled to magnetic beads, the authors have previously described a new adherence mechanism in C. albicans, henceforth referred to as SRS (stable, reversible, specific) adherence. It was previously demonstrated that C. albicans and Saccharomyces cerevisiae expressing agglutinin-like sequence 5 protein (Als5p, previously referred to as Ala1p or Ala1/Als5p) adhere to peptides containing patches of threonine, serine and alanine residues when these are located in the free end of immobilized peptides. The interaction with protein ligands in SRS adherence predominantly involves the formation of hydrogen bonds. Accordingly, this interaction may occur (1) to the peptide backbone of the protein ligand or (2) to the amino acid side chain with an appropriate functional group. Evidence is provided that the primary interaction occurs with the peptide backbone and the secondary interaction occurs with the side chain. The primary interaction with the peptide backbone is sufficient for adherence to occur, whereas the secondary interaction with a side chain possessing an appropriate functional group stabilizes the interaction. In agreement with these results, it is also demonstrated that proteins lacking secondary and tertiary structure, wherein the peptide backbone is sterically accessible, interact with C. albicans and S. cerevisiae expressing Als5p. C. albicans Als proteins are resistant to denaturation by harsh conditions that kill the yeast cells. The proposed interactions in SRS adherence have striking similarities with those of the molecular chaperone Hsp70, which specifically binds to non-native proteins and resists denaturation.
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