Publications

Abstract (Expand)

Candida albicans is a major fungal pathogen of humans. It exists as a commensal in the oral cavity, gut or genital tract of most individuals, constrained by the local microbiota, epithelial barriers and immune defences. Their perturbation can lead to fungal outgrowth and the development of mucosal infections such as oropharyngeal or vulvovaginal candidiasis, and patients with compromised immunity are susceptible to life-threatening systemic infections. The importance of the interplay between fungus, host and microbiota in driving the transition from C. albicans commensalism to pathogenicity is widely appreciated. However, the complexity of these interactions, and the significant impact of fungal, host and microbiota variability upon disease severity and outcome, are less well understood. Therefore, we summarise the features of the fungus that promote infection, and how genetic variation between clinical isolates influences pathogenicity. We discuss antifungal immunity, how this differs between mucosae, and how individual variation influences a person's susceptibility to infection. Also, we describe factors that influence the composition of gut, oral and vaginal microbiotas, and how these affect fungal colonisation and antifungal immunity. We argue that a detailed understanding of these variables, which underlie fungal-host-microbiota interactions, will present opportunities for directed antifungal therapies that benefit vulnerable patients.

Authors: C. d'Enfert, A. K. Kaune, L. R. Alaban, S. Chakraborty, N. Cole, M. Delavy, D. Kosmala, B. Marsaux, R. Frois-Martins, M. Morelli, D. Rosati, M. Valentine, Z. Xie, Y. Emritloll, P. A. Warn, F. Bequet, M. E. Bougnoux, S. Bornes, Mark Gresnigt, Bernhard Hube, Ilse Jacobsen, M. Legrand, S. Leibundgut-Landmann, C. Manichanh, C. A. Munro, M. G. Netea, K. Queiroz, K. Roget, V. Thomas, C. Thoral, P. Van den Abbeele, A. W. Walker, A. J. P. Brown

Date Published: 24th Nov 2020

Journal: FEMS Microbiol Rev

Abstract (Expand)

The dimorphic fungus Candida albicans is both a harmless commensal organism on mucosal surfaces and an opportunistic pathogen. Under certain predisposing conditions, the fungus can overgrow the mucosal microbiome and cause both superficial and life-threatening systemic infections after gaining access to the bloodstream. As the first line of defense of the innate immune response, infecting C. albicans cells face macrophages, which mediate the clearance of invading fungi by intracellular killing. However, the fungus has evolved sophisticated strategies to counteract macrophage antimicrobial activities and thus evade immune surveillance. The cytolytic peptide toxin, candidalysin, contributes to this fungal defense machinery by damaging immune cell membranes, providing an escape route from the hostile phagosome environment. Nevertheless, candidalysin also induces NLRP3 inflammasome activation, leading to an increased host-protective pro-inflammatory response in mononuclear phagocytes. Therefore, candidalysin facilitates immune evasion by acting as a classical virulence factor but also contributes to an antifungal immune response, serving as an avirulence factor. In this review, we discuss the role of candidalysin during C. albicans infections, focusing on its implications during C. albicans-macrophage interactions.

Authors: A. Konig, Bernhard Hube, Lydia Kasper

Date Published: 24th Jul 2020

Journal: Toxins (Basel)

Abstract (Expand)

Clearance of invading microbes requires phagocytes of the innate immune system. However, successful pathogens have evolved sophisticated strategies to evade immune killing. The opportunistic human fungal pathogen Candida albicans is efficiently phagocytosed by macrophages, but causes inflammasome activation, host cytolysis, and escapes after hypha formation. Previous studies suggest that macrophage lysis by C. albicans results from early inflammasome-dependent cell death (pyroptosis), late damage due to glucose depletion and membrane piercing by growing hyphae. Here we show that Candidalysin, a cytolytic peptide toxin encoded by the hypha-associated gene ECE1, is both a central trigger for NLRP3 inflammasome-dependent caspase-1 activation via potassium efflux and a key driver of inflammasome-independent cytolysis of macrophages and dendritic cells upon infection with C. albicans. This suggests that Candidalysin-induced cell damage is a third mechanism of C. albicans-mediated mononuclear phagocyte cell death in addition to damage caused by pyroptosis and the growth of glucose-consuming hyphae.

Authors: Lydia Kasper, A. Konig, P. A. Koenig, M. S. Gresnigt, J. Westman, R. A. Drummond, M. S. Lionakis, O. Gross, J. Ruland, J. R. Naglik, Bernhard Hube

Date Published: 15th Oct 2018

Journal: Nat Commun

Abstract (Expand)

The metabolic flexibility of the opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans is important for colonisation and infection of different host niches. Complex regulatory networks, in which protein kinases play central roles, link metabolism and other virulence-associated traits, such as filamentous growth and stress resistance, and thereby control commensalism and pathogenicity. By screening a protein kinase deletion mutant library that was generated in the present work using an improved SAT1 flipper cassette, we found that the previously uncharacterised kinase Sak1 is a key upstream activator of the protein kinase Snf1, a highly conserved regulator of nutrient stress responses that is essential for viability in C. albicans. The sak1Delta mutants failed to grow on many alternative carbon sources and were hypersensitive to cell wall/membrane stress. These phenotypes were mirrored in mutants lacking other subunits of the SNF1 complex and partially compensated by a hyperactive form of Snf1. Transcriptional profiling of sak1Delta mutants showed that Sak1 ensures basal expression of glyoxylate cycle and gluconeogenesis genes even in glucose-rich media and thereby contributes to the metabolic plasticity of C. albicans. In a mouse model of gastrointestinal colonisation, sak1Delta mutants were rapidly outcompeted by wild-type cells, demonstrating that Sak1 is essential for the in vivo fitness of C. albicans.

Authors: Bernardo Ramirez-Zavala, Austin Mottola, J. Haubenreisser, S. Schneider, Stefanie Allert, S. Brunke, K. Ohlsen, Bernhard Hube, Joachim Morschhäuser

Date Published: 25th Mar 2017

Journal: Mol Microbiol

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