The human commensal and opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans displays extensive genetic and phenotypic variation across clinical isolates. Here, we performed RNA sequencing on 21 well-characterized isolates to examine how genetic variation contributes to gene expression differences and to link these differences to phenotypic traits. C. albicans adapts primarily through clonal evolution, and yet hierarchical clustering of gene expression profiles in this set of isolates did not reproduce their phylogenetic relationship. Strikingly, strain-specific gene expression was prevalent in some strain backgrounds. Association of gene expression with phenotypic data by differential analysis, linear correlation, and assembly of gene networks connected both previously characterized and novel genes with 23 C. albicans traits. Construction of de novo gene modules produced a gene atlas incorporating 67% of C. albicans genes and revealed correlations between expression modules and important phenotypes such as systemic virulence. Furthermore, targeted investigation of two modules that have novel roles in growth and filamentation supported our bioinformatic predictions. Together, these studies reveal widespread transcriptional variation across C. albicans isolates and identify genetic and epigenetic links to phenotypic variation based on coexpression network analysis.
Wang JM*, Woodruff AL*, Dunn MJ, Fillinger RJ, Bennett RJ, Anderson MZ. 2021. Intraspecies transcriptional profiling reveals key regulators of Candida albicans pathogenic traits. mBio 12:e00586-21. https://doi.org/10.1128/mBio.00586-21.