Functional diversification accompanies gene family expansion of MED2 homologs in Candida albicans

Matthew J. Dunn, Griffin M. Kinney, Pamela M. Washington, Judith Berman, Matthew Z. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gene duplication facilitates functional diversification and provides greater phenotypic flexibility to an organism. Expanded gene families arise through repeated gene duplication but the extent of functional divergence that accompanies each paralogous gene is generally unexplored because of the difficulty in isolating the effects of single family members. The telomere-associated (TLO) gene family is a remarkable example of gene family expansion, with 14 members in the more pathogenic Candida albicans relative to two TLO genes in the closely-related species C. dubliniensis. TLO genes encode interchangeable Med2 subunits of the major transcriptional regulatory complex Mediator. To identify biological functions associated with each C. albicans TLO, expression of individual family members was regulated using a Tet-ON system and the strains were assessed across a range of phenotypes involved in growth and virulence traits. All TLOs affected multiple phenotypes and a single phenotype was often affected by multiple TLOs, including simple phenotypes such as cell aggregation and complex phenotypes such as virulence in a Galleria mellonella model of infection. No phenotype was regulated by all TLOs, suggesting neofunctionalization or subfunctionalization of ancestral properties among different family members. Importantly, regulation of three phenotypes could be mapped to individual polymorphic sites among the TLO genes, including an indel correlated with two phenotypes, growth in sucrose and macrophage killing. Different selective pressures have operated on the TLO sequence, with the 5’ conserved Med2 domain experiencing purifying selection and the gene/clade-specific 3’ end undergoing extensive positive selection that may contribute to the impact of individual TLOs on phenotypic variability. Therefore, expansion of the TLO gene family has conferred unique regulatory properties to each paralog such that it influences a range of phenotypes. We posit that the genetic diversity associated with this expansion contributed to C. albicans success as a commensal and opportunistic pathogen.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1007326
JournalPLoS Genetics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Functional diversification accompanies gene family expansion of MED2 homologs in Candida albicans'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this