Nav: Home

All yeasts are not created equal

October 19, 2016

Montreal, Oct. 17, 2016 -- Yeast. Great if you want to make bread or wine. Not so hot if it turns up as Candida albicans in large quantities in your body and makes you sick.

A study recently published by a team of researchers led by Concordia professor Malcolm Whiteway in Current Biology shows that the type of yeast in bread is less similar to the type that causes fungal infections than previously thought.

The researchers hope that by shining new light on what makes the pathogen tick, his research may eventually help create targeted drugs.

When yeast goes bad

Candida albicans is the strain of yeast that causes relatively benign infections in people with strong immune systems. But it can be a serious threat to people with compromised immune systems, such as patients with AIDS or those undergoing chemotherapy or transplants of organs or bone marrow.

"Blood-stream infections related to Candida are frequently fatal," says Whiteway, who conducted the study with key collaborators Walters Tebung -- a PhD candidate at Concordia, and Joachim Morschhauser with Germany's Institut für Molekulare Infektionsbiologie.

Because the cells of this fungus function very similarly to human cells, the antibiotics that have been so successful in treating bacterial infections are not active against them. And the current anti-fungal drugs can have serious side effects. My research is aimed at helping to develop a new generation of anti-fungal drugs that have limited side effects"

Yin yang yeast

Whiteway and his colleagues examined how a cellular process in Candida albicans differs from the one in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the yeast used in making bread and wine. Through "genetic rewiring," the protein controlling a particular process in one yeast species controls a different process in the other.

The rewiring occurs in a protein named Ppr1. In Candida albicans, this protein controls the degrading of purines -- molecules that make up DNA. But the Ppr1 protein in Saccharomyces cerevisiae controls the building of pyrimidines -- molecules that make up the elements of DNA complementary to purines.

"Imagine two similar looking houses in Montreal and Toronto. In Montreal, when you flick a switch in the living room the lights come on. But when you flick the equivalent switch in the house in Toronto the stereo goes off. The same switch is doing different jobs," says Whiteway, who also holds a Canada Research Chair in Microbial Genomics in the Faculty of Arts and Science.

"We think the reason for this is because the yeast that makes bread and wine changed its metabolism to allow it to grow without much oxygen. This led to the pressure that generated the rewiring," he says.

New treatment options

Pinpointing differences between bread-making and disease-causing yeasts gives us a picture of how cells can be remarkably different even when they look similar. That's important from a drug production standpoint. Right now, it's common practice to use Saccharomyces to develop drugs to fight Candida.

"This study proves that we have to study the pathogen itself. We can't just study proxies and think drugs that will treat one will work in the other," says Whiteway.

"If you want drugs to fight Candida you're better off working with Candida, even though Saccharomyces is easier to come by. The more we understand about how a fungal cell works, the better we can identify weak points in its armour."

"We hope it will one day lead to new treatment options for patients suffering from yeast infections, with the goal of faster healing and reduced suffering."
Related links:

Faculty of Arts and Science

Department of Biology

Centre for Structural and Functional Genomics

The Whiteway Lab

Media contact:

Cléa Desjardins
Senior advisor, media relations
University Communications Services
Concordia University
Phone: 514-848-2424, ext. 5068
Twitter: @CleaDesjardins

Concordia University

Related Protein Articles:

Hi-res view of protein complex shows how it breaks up protein tangles
A new, high-resolution view of the structure of Hsp104 (heat shock protein 104), a natural yeast protein nanomachine with six subunits, may show news ways to dismantle harmful protein clumps in disease.
Breaking the protein-DNA bond
A new Northwestern University study finds that unbound proteins in a cell break up protein-DNA bonds as they compete for the single-binding site.
FASEB Science Research Conference: Protein Kinases and Protein Phosphorylation
This conference focuses on the biology of protein kinases and phosphorylation signaling.
Largest resource of human protein-protein interactions can help interpret genomic data
An international research team has developed the largest database of protein-to-protein interaction networks, a resource that can illuminate how numerous disease-associated genes contribute to disease development and progression.
STAT2: Much more than an antiviral protein
A protein known for guarding against viral infections leads a double life, new research shows, and can interfere with cell growth and the defense against parasites.
A protein makes the difference
It is well-established knowledge that blood vessels foster the growth of tumors.
Nuclear protein causes neuroblastoma to become more aggressive
Aggressive forms of neuroblastoma contain a specific protein in their cells' nuclei that is not found in the nuclei of more benign forms of the cancer, and the discovery, made through research from the University of Rochester Medical Center, could lead to new forms of targeted therapy.
How a protein could become the next big sweetener
High-fructose corn syrup and sugar are on the outs with calorie-wary consumers.
High animal protein intake associated with higher, plant protein with lower mortality rate
The largest study to examine the effects of different sources of dietary protein found that a high intake of proteins from animal sources -- particularly processed and unprocessed red meats -- was associated with a higher mortality rate, while a high intake of protein from plant sources was associated with a lower risk of death.
Protein in, ammonia out
A recent study has compiled and analyzed data from 25 previous studies.

Related Protein Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Crisis
There's no greater threat to humanity than climate change. What can we do to stop the worst consequences? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can save our planet and whether we can do it in time. Guests include climate activist Greta Thunberg, chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox, research scientist Sean Davis, food innovator Bruce Friedrich, and psychologist Per Espen Stoknes.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...