Candida albicans, a major human fungal pathogen
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- Kim, J. & Sudbery, P. J Microbiol. (2011) 49: 171. doi:10.1007/s12275-011-1064-7
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Candida albicans is the most common human fungal pathogen (Beck-Sague and Jarvis, 1993). It is normally a harmless commensal organism. However, it is a opportunistic pathogen for some immunologically weak and immunocompromised people. It is responsible for painful mucosal infections such as the vaginitis in women and oral-pharangeal thrush in AIDS patients. In certain groups of vulnerable patients it causes severe, life-threatening bloodstream infections and it causes severe, life-threatening bloodstream infections and subsequent infections in the internal organs. There are various fascinating features of the C. albicans life cycle and biology that have made the pathogen the subject of extensive research, including its ability to grow in unicellular yeast, psudohyphal, and hyphal forms (Fig. 1A); its ability to switch between different but stable phenotypic states, and the way that it retains the ability to mate but apparently loses the ability to go through meiosis to complete the sexual cycle. This research has been greatly facilitated by the derivation of the complete C. albicans genome sequence (Braun et al., 2005), the development of a variety of molecular tools for gene manipulation, and a store of underpinning knowledge of cell biology borrowed from the distantly related model yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Berman and Sudbery, 2002; Noble and Johnson, 2007). This review will provide a brief overview of the importance of C. albicans as a public health issue, the experimental tools developed to study its fascinating biology, and some examples of how these have been applied.