Flow Cytometry ofCandida albicansfor Investigations of Surface Marker Expression and Phagocytosis

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Abstract.Several cytoplasmic virulence factors of Candida albicans are altered in the presence of estrogen and this fact may imply the existence of a global virulence regulatory system in this organism. The response of virulence-associated surface markers to estrogen, however, has not been studied. We exploited flow cytometry methods for assessment of the iC3b receptor analog and mannoproteins on 2 clinical yeast strains selected for their different rates of growth in the presence of estradiol 17β. Although, as expected, iC3b receptor analog expression increased in the presence of glucose, growth in the presence of estradiol did not increase the levels of iC3b receptor analog on either organism. Exposure to human serum caused massive conversion to mycelial growth, but cells examined by flow cytometry did not show increased levels of iC3b receptor analog expression, possibly due to inability of the flow cytometer to sample the mycelial forms of Candida. In contrast, estradiol increased expression of mannoproteins as evidenced by concanavalin A binding to yeast. This increase occurred in both yeast strains but was less pronounced with strain GT188, which also showed limited growth in estradiol compared to strain GT142. Effective phagocytosis by human neutrophils required exposure of yeast to human serum. Yeast grown in the presence of estradiol were ingested by human PMN but not at a significantly greater rate than yeast grown without estradiol. While flow cytometry appears to be useful in determining estrogen-enhanced concanavalin A binding to yeast, it probably does not reflect the surface markers on large mycelial masses. Consequently, the results of this study are applicable to Candida primarily in its yeast form. (received 18 December 2004; accepted 16 March 2005)

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