The zinc cluster transcription factor Czf1 regulates cell wall architecture and integrity in Candida albicans.
The fungal cell wall is essential for the maintenance of cellular integrity and mediates interactions of the cells with the environment. It is a highly flexible organelle whose composition and organization is modulated in response to changing growth conditions. In the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans, a network of signaling pathways regulates the structure of the cell wall, and mutants with defects in these pathways are hypersensitive to cell wall stress. By harnessing a library of genetically activated forms of all C. albicans zinc cluster transcription factors, we found that a hyperactive Czf1 rescued the hypersensitivity to cell wall stress of different protein kinase deletion mutants. The hyperactive Czf1 induced the expression of many genes with cell wall-related functions and caused visible changes in the cell wall structure. C. albicans czf1Δ mutants were hypersensitive to the antifungal drug caspofungin, which inhibits cell wall biosynthesis. The changes in cell wall architecture caused by hyperactivity or absence of Czf1 resulted in an increased recognition of C. albicans by human neutrophils. Our results show that Czf1, which is known as a regulator of filamentous growth and white-opaque switching, controls the expression of cell wall genes and modulates the architecture of the cell wall.