Candida albicans is a unicellular budding fungus that forms part of normal gut or genitalia microflora. In immunocompromized humans, however, C. albicans becomes an important opportunistic pathogen that can cause mortality. C. albicans is unique among other fungal pathogens by having an ability to infect divers sites of human body, including skin, nails, mucosal surfaces, as well as any other tissues or inner organs. In the laboratory, this fungus demonstrates an impressive ability to flourish under extreme pH and temperatures, as well as in other extreme environments. C. albicans possesses an acute ability to counter act the environmental stresses and to mount adequate phenotypic responses.
We made the remarkable discovery that C. albicans evolved an unusual mechanism of survival in adverse environments that cause lethality or inhibit growth. Using four different environments, we demonstrated that this naturally diploid microbe survived in a specific environment by altering a specific chromosome. Alterations included loss and gain of the entire chromosomes or loss and gain of the large portions of chromosomes. For example, survival on the medium containing the toxic sugar L-sorbose involved predominantly the formation of monosomy of chromosome 5 (Ch5).