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PLoS Genetics


Candida albicans biofilm formation is a key virulence trait that involves hyphal growth and adhesin expression. Pyocyanin (PYO), a phenazine secreted by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, inhibits both C. albicans biofilm formation and development of wrinkled colonies. Using a genetic screen, we identified two mutants, ssn3Δ/Δ and ssn8Δ/Δ, which continued to wrinkle in the presence of PYO. Ssn8 is a cyclin-like protein and Ssn3 is similar to cyclin-dependent kinases; both proteins are part of the heterotetrameric Cdk8 module that forms a complex with the transcriptional co-regulator, Mediator. Ssn3 kinase activity was also required for PYO sensitivity as a kinase dead mutant maintained a wrinkled colony morphology in the presence of PYO. Furthermore, similar phenotypes were observed in mutants lacking the other two components of the Cdk8 module-Srb8 and Srb9. Through metabolomics analyses and biochemical assays, we showed that a compromised Cdk8 module led to increases in glucose consumption, glycolysis-related transcripts, oxidative metabolism and ATP levels even in the presence of PYO. In the mutant, inhibition of respiration to levels comparable to the PYO-treated wild type inhibited wrinkled colony development. Several lines of evidence suggest that PYO does not act through Cdk8. Lastly, the ssn3 mutant was a hyperbiofilm former, and maintained higher biofilm formation in the presence of PYO than the wild type. Together these data provide novel insights into the role of the Cdk8 module of Mediator in regulation of C. albicans physiology and the links between respiratory activity and both wrinkled colony and biofilm development.