ABSTRACT The human fungal commensal Candida albicans can become a serious opportunistic pathogen in immunocompromised hosts. The C. albicans cell adhesion protein Als1p is a highly expressed member of a large family of paralogous adhesins. Als1p can mediate binding to epithelial and endothelial cells, is upregulated in infections, and is important for biofilm formation. Als1p includes an amyloidforming sequence at amino acids 325 to 331, identical to the sequence in the paralogs Als5p and Als3p. Therefore, we mutated Val326 to test whether this sequence is important for activity. Wild-type Als1p (Als1pWT) and Als1p with the V326N mutation (Als1pV326N) were expressed at similar levels in a Saccharomyces cerevisiae surface display model. Als1pV326N cells adhered to bovine serum albumin (BSA)-coated beads similarly to Als1pWT cells. However, cells displaying Als1pV326N showed visibly smaller aggregates and did not fluoresce in the presence of the amyloid-binding dye Thioflavin-T. A new analysis tool for single-molecule force spectroscopy-derived surface mapping showed that statistically significant force-dependent Als1p clustering occurred in Als1pWT cells but was absent in Als1pV326N cells. In single-cell force spectroscopy experiments, strong cell-cell adhesion was dependent on an intact amyloid core sequence on both interacting cells. Thus, the major adhesin Als1p interacts through amyloid-like -aggregation to cluster adhesin molecules in cis on the cell surface as well as in trans to form cell-cell bonds.
IMPORTANCE Microbial cell surface adhesins control essential processes such as adhesion, colonization, and biofilm formation. In the opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans, the agglutinin-like sequence (ALS) gene family encodes eight cell surface glycoproteins that mediate adherence to biotic and abiotic surfaces and cellcell aggregation. Als proteins are critical for commensalism and virulence. Their activities include attachment and invasion of endothelial and epithelial cells, morphogenesis, and formation of biofilms on host tissue and indwelling medical catheters. At the molecular level, Als5p-mediated cell-cell aggregation is dependent on the formation of amyloid-like nanodomains between Als5p-expressing cells. A single-site mutation to valine 326 abolishes cellular aggregation and amyloid formation. Our results show that the binding characteristics of Als1p follow a mechanistic model similar to Als5p, despite its differential expression and biological roles.