Candida albicans surface-attached biofilms such as those formed on intravenous catheters with direct access to the bloodstream often serve as a nidus for continuous release of cells capable of initiating new infectious foci. We previously reported that cells dispersed from a biofilm are yeast cells that originate from the top-most hyphal layers of the biofilm. Compared to their planktonic counterparts, these biofilm dispersal yeast cells displayed enhanced virulence-associated characteristics and drug resistance. However, little is known about their molecular properties. To address that issue, in this study we aimed to define the molecular characteristics of these biofilm dispersal cells. We found that the inducer of dispersal, PES1, genetically interacts with the repressor of filamentation, NRG1, in a manner consistent with the definition of dispersed cells as yeast cells. Further, using a flow biofilm model, we performed comprehensive comparative RNA sequencing on freshly dispersed cells in order to identify unique transcriptomic characteristics. Gene expression analysis demonstrated that dispersed cells largely inherit a biofilm-like mRNA profile. Strikingly, however, dispersed cells seemed transcriptionally reprogrammed to acquire nutrients such as zinc and amino acids and to metabolize alternative carbon sources, while their biofilm-associated parent cells did not induce the same high-affinity transporters or express gluconeogenetic genes, despite exposure to the same nutritional signals. Collectively, the findings from this study characterize cell dispersal as an intrinsic step of biofilm development which generates propagules more adept at colonizing distant host sites. This developmental step anticipates the need for virulence-associated gene expression before the cells experience the associated external signals. IMPORTANCE Candida albicans surface-attached biofilms serve as a reservoir of cells to perpetuate and expand an infection; cells released from biofilms on catheters have direct access to the bloodstream. Biofilm dispersal yeast cells exhibit enhanced adhesion, invasion, and biofilm formation compared to their planktonic counterparts. Here, we show using transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) that dispersed yeast cells are developmentally distinct from the cells in their parent biofilms as well as from planktonic yeast cells. Dispersal cells possess an anticipatory expression pattern that primes them to infect new sites in the host, to survive in nutrient-starved niches, and to invade new sites. These studies identified dispersal cells as a unique proliferative cell type of the biofilm and showed that they could serve as targets for antibiofilm drug development in the future.
- Candida albicans
- Carbon metabolism
- Gene expression
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