Melanization of Candida auris Is Associated with Alteration of Extracellular pH

Daniel F.Q. Smith, Nathan J. Mudrak, Daniel Zamith-Miranda, Leandro Honorato, Leonardo Nimrichter, Christine Chrissian, Barbara Smith, Gary J. Gerfen, Ruth E. Stark, Joshua D. Nosanchuk, Arturo Casadevall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Candida auris is a recently emerged global fungal pathogen, which causes life-threatening infections, often in healthcare settings. C. auris infections are worrisome because the fungus is often resistant to multiple antifungal drug classes. Furthermore, C. auris forms durable and difficult to remove biofilms. Due to the relatively recent, resilient, and resistant nature of C. auris, we investigated whether it produces the common fungal virulence factor melanin. Melanin is a black-brown pigment typically produced following enzymatic oxidation of aromatic precursors, which promotes fungal virulence through oxidative stress resistance, mammalian immune response evasion, and antifungal peptide and pharmaceutical inactivation. We found that certain strains of C. auris oxidized L-DOPA and catecholamines into melanin. Melanization occurred extracellularly in a process mediated by alkalinization of the extracellular environment, resulting in granule-like structures that adhere to the fungus’ external surface. C. auris had relatively high cell surface hydrophobicity, but there was no correlation between hydrophobicity and melanization. Melanin protected the fungus from oxidative damage, but we did not observe a protective role during infection of macrophages or Galleria mellonella larvae. In summary, C. auris alkalinizes the extracellular medium, which promotes the non-enzymatic oxidation of L-DOPA to melanin that attaches to its surface, thus illustrating a novel mechanism for fungal melanization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1068
JournalJournal of Fungi
Volume8
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2022

Keywords

  • alkalinization
  • ammonia
  • Candida auris
  • hydrophobicity
  • melanin
  • virulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science
  • Microbiology (medical)

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