Systematic metabolic profiling identifies de novo sphingolipid synthesis as hypha associated and essential for Candida albicans filamentation.
The yeast-to-hypha transition is a key virulence attribute of the opportunistic human fungal pathogen Candida albicans, since it is closely tied to infection-associated processes such as tissue invasion and escape from phagocytes. While the nature of hypha-associated gene expression required for fungal virulence has been thoroughly investigated, potential morphotype-dependent activity of metabolic pathways remained unclear. Here, we combined global transcriptome and metabolome analyses for the wild-type SC5314 and the hypha-defective hgc1Δ and cph1Δefg1Δ strains under three hypha-inducing (human serum, N-acetylglucosamine, and alkaline pH) and two yeast-promoting conditions to identify metabolic adaptions that accompany the filamentation process. We identified morphotype-related activities of distinct pathways and a metabolic core signature of 26 metabolites with consistent depletion or enrichment during the yeast-to-hypha transition. Most strikingly, we found a hypha-associated activation of de novo sphingolipid biosynthesis, indicating a connection of this pathway and filamentous growth. Consequently, pharmacological inhibition of this partially fungus-specific pathway resulted in strongly impaired filamentation, verifying the necessity of de novo sphingolipid biosynthesis for proper hypha formation. IMPORTANCE The reversible switch of Candida albicans between unicellular yeast and multicellular hyphal growth is accompanied by a well-studied hypha-associated gene expression, encoding virulence factors like adhesins, toxins, or nutrient scavengers. The investigation of this gene expression consequently led to fundamental insights into the pathogenesis of this fungus. In this study, we applied this concept to hypha-associated metabolic adaptations and identified morphotype-dependent activities of distinct pathways and a stimulus-independent metabolic signature of hyphae. Most strikingly, we found the induction of de novo sphingolipid biosynthesis as hypha associated and essential for the filamentation of C. albicans. These findings verified the presence of morphotype-specific metabolic traits in the fungus, which appear connected to the fungal virulence. Furthermore, the here-provided comprehensive description of the fungal metabolome will help to foster future research and lead to a better understanding of fungal physiology.