A highly conserved tRNA modification contributes to C. albicans filamentation and virulence.

Böttcher B, Kienast SD, Leufken J, Eggers C, Sharma P, Leufken CM, Morgner B, Drexler HCA, Schulz D, Allert S, Jacobsen ID, Vylkova S, Leidel SA, Brunke S# (2024) A highly conserved tRNA modification contributes to C. albicans filamentation and virulence. Microbiol Spectr 12(5), e0425522.

#corresponding author


tRNA modifications play important roles in maintaining translation accuracy in all domains of life. Disruptions in the tRNA modification machinery, especially of the anticodon stem loop, can be lethal for many bacteria and lead to a broad range of phenotypes in baker's yeast. Very little is known about the function of tRNA modifications in host-pathogen interactions, where rapidly changing environments and stresses require fast adaptations. We found that two closely related fungal pathogens of humans, the highly pathogenic Candida albicans and its much less pathogenic sister species, Candida dubliniensis, differ in the function of a tRNA-modifying enzyme. This enzyme, Hma1, exhibits species-specific effects on the ability of the two fungi to grow in the hypha morphology, which is central to their virulence potential. We show that Hma1 has tRNA-threonylcarbamoyladenosine dehydratase activity, and its deletion alters ribosome occupancy, especially at 37°C-the body temperature of the human host. A C. albicans HMA1 deletion mutant also shows defects in adhesion to and invasion into human epithelial cells and shows reduced virulence in a fungal infection model. This links tRNA modifications to host-induced filamentation and virulence of one of the most important fungal pathogens of humans.


Fungal infections are on the rise worldwide, and their global burden on human life and health is frequently underestimated. Among them, the human commensal and opportunistic pathogen, Candida albicans, is one of the major causative agents of severe infections. Its virulence is closely linked to its ability to change morphologies from yeasts to hyphae. Here, this ability is linked-to our knowledge for the first time-to modifications of tRNA and translational efficiency. One tRNA-modifying enzyme, Hma1, plays a specific role in C. albicans and its ability to invade the host. This adds a so-far unknown layer of regulation to the fungal virulence program and offers new potential therapeutic targets to fight fungal infections.


Stefanie Allert
Bettina Böttcher
Sascha Brunke
Ilse Denise Jacobsen
Bianka Morgner
Daniela Schulz


doi: 10.1128/spectrum.04255-22

PMID: 38587411