Interactions between colonizing commensal microorganisms and their hosts play important roles in health and disease. The opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans is a common component of human intestinal flora. To gain insight into C. albicans colonization, genes expressed by fungi grown within a host were studied. The EFH1 gene, encoding a putative transcription factor, was highly expressed during growth of C. albicans in the intestinal tract. Counterintuitively, an efh1 null mutant exhibited increased colonization of the murine intestinal tract, a model of commensal colonization, whereas an EFH1 overexpressing strain exhibited reduced colonization of the intestinal tract and of the oral cavity of athymic mice, the latter situation modeling human mucosal candidiasis. When inoculated into the bloodstream of mice, both efh1 null and EFH1 overexpressing strains caused lethal infections. In contrast, other mutants are attenuated in virulence following intravenous inoculation but exhibited normal levels of intestinal colonization. Finally, although expression of several genes is dependent on transcription factor Efg1p during laboratory growth, Efg1p-independent expression of these genes was observed during growth within the murine intestinal tract. These results show that expression of EFH1 regulated the level of colonizing fungi, favoring commensalism as opposed to candidiasis. Also, different genes are required in different host niches and the pathway(s) that regulates gene expression during host colonization can differ from well-characterized pathways used during laboratory growth.
Although the fungus Candida albicans commonly colonizes the human gastrointestinal tract as a commensal, the organism is also an opportunistic pathogen, responsible for a wide range of infections in immunocompromised persons. While numerous studies of infection have been conducted, few studies have analyzed the commensal state. The studies described here analyze C. albicans cells colonizing the intestinal tract of immunocompetent mice in the absence of disease, a model for commensalism. Results showed that expression of the putative transcription factor Efh1p by cells colonizing the intestinal tract was relatively high, but paradoxically, expression of Efh1p was associated with lower colonization. Efh1p had no detectable effect on the ability of C. albicans to cause lethal disseminated infection in mice. In contrast, Rbt1p and Rbt4p, two proteins of poorly defined function required for normal disseminated infection, were not required for intestinal colonization. These results argue that the commensal state is distinct from the pathogenic state and that different factors are important in different states. Also, the regulation of expression of genes RBT1, RBT4, and ECE1 during intestinal colonization differed from their well-characterized regulation during laboratory growth. Further studies of commensal colonization are needed to understand this important stage of C. albicans biology.
While many virulence factors promoting Streptococcus pyogenes invasive disease have been described, specific streptococcal factors and host properties influencing asymptomatic mucosal carriage remain uncertain. To address the need for a refined model of prolonged S. pyogenes asymptomatic mucosal colonization, we have adapted a preestrogenized murine vaginal colonization model for S. pyogenes. In this model, derivatives of strains HSC5, SF370, JRS4, NZ131, and MEW123 established a reproducible, asymptomatic colonization of the vaginal mucosa over a period of typically 3 to 4 weeks' duration at a relatively high colonization efficiency. Prior treatment with estradiol prolonged streptococcal colonization and was associated with reduced inflammation in the colonized vaginal epithelium as well as a decreased leukocyte presence in vaginal fluid compared to the levels of inflammation and leukocyte presence in non-estradiol-treated control mice. The utility of our model for investigating S. pyogenes factors contributing to mucosal carriage was verified, as a mutant with a mutation in the transcriptional regulator catabolite control protein A (CcpA) demonstrated significant impairment in vaginal colonization. An assessment of in vivo transcriptional activity in the CcpA− strain for several known CcpA-regulated genes identified significantly elevated transcription of lactate oxidase (lctO) correlating with excessive generation of hydrogen peroxide to self-lethal levels. Deletion of lctO did not impair colonization, but deletion of lctO in a CcpA− strain prolonged carriage, exceeding even that of the wild-type strain. Thus, while LctO is not essential for vaginal colonization, its dysregulation is deleterious, highlighting the critical role of CcpA in promoting mucosal colonization. The vaginal colonization model should prove effective for future analyses of S. pyogenes mucosal colonization.
Oral candidiasis is a common fungal infection in patients infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Although rare at the time of primary HIV infection, it is frequently found throughout the asymptomatic phase and is predictive of progressive immunodeficiency. However, the precise immune defect which results in outgrowth of commensal Candida albicans in HIV infection has not been identified. Mice infected with the Du5H(G6T2) mixture of mouse leukemia viruses develop a syndrome, designated murine AIDS (MAIDS), that has many of the immune abnormalities found in HIV infection. Retrovirus-infected C57BL/6 mice were examined for their ability to resist the development of oral candidiasis from the carrier state established after a self-limiting acute infection and to clear a subsequent secondary inoculum of oral C. albicans. Most of the mice orally colonized with C. albicans and then inoculated with the retrovirus mixture maintained a low-level oral carriage of C. albicans, while 30% of coinfected mice developed recurring 2- to 3-week episodes of acute Candida proliferation, separated by transient recoveries to the carrier state. The frequencies of CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocytes were, respectively, unchanged and significantly decreased (P < 0.05) in both cervical lymph nodes and spleens of coinfected mice compared to the corresponding frequencies in C. albicans-carrying, virus-free, age-matched control animals. Secretion of gamma interferon by concanavalin A (ConA)-stimulated spleen cells from Candida-carrying, retrovirus-infected mice was significantly decreased (P < 0.05) compared to that of C. albicans-carrying, retrovirus-free mice, in accordance with known abnormalities associated with MAIDS. However, production of this cytokine by ConA-stimulated or unstimulated cervical lymph node cells from coinfected mice was enhanced compared to that of virus-free animals colonized with C. albicans. Acquired resistance to reinfection with C. albicans was maintained in retrovirus-infected mice and was associated with a mucosal recruitment of CD8+ cells not observed in control mice. These results suggest that alterations in mucosal immunity which occur in MAIDS differ substantially from defects observed at other sites and that surrogate epithelial defense mechanisms may function locally to limit Candida proliferation.
Recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis, caused by Candida albicans, is a significant problem in women of childbearing age. Although cell-mediated immunity (CMI) due to T cells and cytokines is the predominant host defense mechanism against C. albicans at mucosal tissue sites, host defense mechanisms against C. albicans at the vaginal mucosa are poorly understood. Based on an estrogen-dependent murine model of vaginal candidiasis, our data suggest that systemic CMI is ineffective against C. albicans vaginal infections. Thus, we have postulated that local immune mechanisms are critical for protection against infection. In the present study, the kinetic production of chemokines normally associated with the chemotaxis of T cells, macrophages (RANTES, MIP-1α, MCP-1), and polymorphonuclear neutrophils (MIP-2) was examined following intravaginal inoculation of C. albicans in estrogen-treated or untreated mice. Results showed significant increases in MCP-1 protein and mRNA in vaginal tissue of infected mice as early as 2 and 4 days postinoculation, respectively, that continued through a 21-day observation period, irrespective of estrogen status. No significant changes were observed with RANTES, MIP-1α, or MIP-2, although relatively high constitutive levels of RANTES mRNA and MIP-2 protein were observed. Furthermore, intravaginal immunoneutralization of MCP-1 with anti-MCP-1 antibodies resulted in a significant increase in vaginal fungal burden early during infection, suggesting that MCP-1 plays some role in reducing the fungal burden during vaginal infection. However, the lack of changes in leukocyte profiles in vaginal lavage fluids collected from infected versus uninfected mice suggests that MCP-1 functions to control vaginal C. albicans titers in a manner independent of cellular chemotactic activity.
Current understanding of resistance and susceptibility to vulvovaginal candidiasis challenges existing paradigms of host defence against fungal infection. While abiotic biofilm formation has a clearly established role during systemic Candida infections, it is not known whether C. albicans forms biofilms on the vaginal mucosa and the possible role of biofilms in disease. In vivo and ex vivo murine vaginitis models were employed to examine biofilm formation by scanning electron and confocal microscopy. C. albicans strains included 3153A (lab strain), DAY185 (parental control strain), and mutants defective in morphogenesis and/or biofilm formation in vitro (efg1/efg1 and bcr1/bcr1). Both 3153A and DAY815 formed biofilms on the vaginal mucosa in vivo and ex vivo as indicated by high fungal burden and microscopic analysis demonstrating typical biofilm architecture and presence of extracellular matrix (ECM) co-localized with the presence of fungi. In contrast, efg1/efg1 and bcr1/bcr1 mutant strains exhibited weak or no biofilm formation/ECM production in both models compared to wild-type strains and complemented mutants despite comparable colonization levels. These data show for the first time that C. albicans forms biofilms in vivo on vaginal epithelium, and that in vivo biotic biofilm formation requires regulators of biofilm formation (BCR1) and morphogenesis (EFG1).
The role of systemic cell-mediated immunity (CMI) as a host defense mechanism in the vagina is poorly understood. Using a murine pseudoestrus model of experimental vaginal candidiasis, we previously found that animals given a vaginal inoculum of viable Candida albicans blastoconidia acquired a persistent vaginal infection and developed Candida-specific delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) responses. The present study was designed to characterize the peripheral CMI reactivity generated from the vaginal infection in mice and to determine whether pseudoestrus is a prerequisite for the induction of peripheral CMI reactivity. Mice treated or not treated with estrogen and given a vaginal inoculum of C. albicans blastoconidia were examined for 4 weeks for their vaginal Candida burden and peripheral CMI reactivity, including DTH responsiveness and in vitro Th1 (interleukin-2 [IL-2], gamma interferon [IFN-gamma]/Th2 (IL-4, IL-10)-type lymphokine production in response to Candida antigens. Results showed that although mice not treated with estrogen before being given a vaginal inoculum of C. albicans blastoconidia developed only a short-lived vaginal infection and harbored significantly fewer Candida CFU in the vagina compared with those given estrogen and then infected; DTH reactivity was equivalent in both groups. In vitro measurement of CMI reactivity further showed that lymph node cells from both estrogen- and non-estrogen-treated infected mice produced elevated levels of IL-2 and IFN-gamma in response to Candida antigens during the 4 weeks after vaginal inoculation. In contrast, lymph node cells from the same vaginally infected mice showed no IL-10 production and only small elevations of IL-4 during week 4 of infection. These results suggest that mice with experimental vaginal candidiasis develop predominantly Th1-type Candida-specific peripheral CMI reactivity and that similar patterns of Th1-type reactivity occur in mice regardless of the persistence of infection and the estrogen status of the infected mice.
Protective host defense mechanisms against vaginal Candida albicans infections are poorly understood. Although cell-mediated immunity (CMI) is the predominant host defense mechanism against most mucosal Candida infections, the role of CMI against vaginal candidiasis is uncertain, both in humans and in an experimental mouse model. The role of humoral immunity is equally unclear. While clinical observations suggest a minimal role for antibodies against vaginal candidiasis, an experimental rat model has provided evidence for a protective role for Candida-specific immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies. Additionally, Candida vaccination-induced IgM and IgG3 antibodies are protective in a mouse model of vaginitis. In the present study, the role of infection-induced humoral immunity in protection against experimental vaginal candidiasis was evaluated through the quantification of Candida-specific IgA, IgG, and IgM antibodies in serum and vaginal lavage fluids of mice with primary and secondary (partially protected) infection. In naïve mice, total, but not Candida-specific, antibodies were detected in serum and lavage fluids, consistent with lack of yeast colonization in mice. In infected mice, Candida-specific IgA and IgG antibodies were induced in serum with anamnestic responses to secondary infection. In lavage fluid, while Candida-specific antibodies were detectable, concentrations were extremely low with no anamnestic responses in mice with secondary infection. The incorporation of alternative protocols—including infections in a different strain of mice, prolongation of primary infection prior to secondary challenge, use of different enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay capture antigens, and concentration of lavage fluid—did not enhance local Candida-specific antibody production or detection. Additionally, antibodies were not removed from lavage fluids by being bound to Candida during infection. Together, these data suggest that antibodies are not readily present in vaginal secretions of infected mice and thus have a limited natural protective role against infection.
It has been postulated that systemic cell-mediated immunity (CMI) is an important host defense factor against recurrent vaginal infections caused by Candida albicans. Using an estrogen-dependent murine model of vaginal candidiasis, we have previously shown that mice inoculated vaginally with C. albicans acquire a persistent vaginal infection and develop Candida-specific Th1-type systemic CMI. In the present study, experimental vaginitis was monitored in the presence of preinduced systemic Candida-specific CMI. Mice immunized systemically with C. albicans culture filtrate antigens (CaCF) in complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) had Th1-type reactivity similar to that of vaginally infected mice. CaCF given to mice intravenously induced Candida-specific suppressor T (Ts) cells. Mice preimmunized with CaCF-CFA and given a vaginal inoculum of C. albicans had positive delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) reactivity from the time of vaginal inoculation through 4 weeks. Conversely, mice infected in the presence of Ts cells had significantly reduced DTH responses throughout the 4-week period in comparison with naive infected mice. However, the presence of Th1-type Candida-specific DTH cells or Ts cells, either induced in mice prior to vaginal inoculation or adoptively transferred at the time of inoculation, had no effect on the vaginal Candida burden through 4 weeks of infection. A similar lack of effects was obtained in animals with lower Candida population levels resulting from a reduction in or absence of exogenous estrogen. These results suggest that systemic Th1-type CMI demonstrable with CaCF is unrelated to protective events at the level of the vaginal mucosa.
Secreted aspartyl proteinases (Saps) contribute to the ability of Candida albicans to cause mucosal and disseminated infections. A model of vaginal candidiasis based on reconstituted human vaginal epithelium (RHVE) was used to study the expression and role of these C. albicans proteinases during infection and tissue damage of vaginal epithelium. Colonization of the RHVE by C. albicans SC5314 did not cause any visible epithelial damage 6 h after inoculation, although expression of SAP2, SAP9, and SAP10 was detected by reverse transcriptase PCR. However, significant epithelial damage was observed after 12 h, concomitant with the additional expression of SAP1, SAP4, and SAP5. Additional transcripts of SAP6 and SAP7 were detected at a later stage of the artificial infection (24 h). Similar SAP expression profiles were observed in three samples isolated from human patients with vaginal candidiasis. In experimental infection, secretion of antigens Sap1 to Sap6 by C. albicans was confirmed at the ultrastructural level by using polyclonal antisera raised against Sap1 to Sap6. Addition of the aspartyl proteinase inhibitors pepstatin A and the human immunodeficiency virus proteinase inhibitors ritonavir and amprenavir strongly reduced the tissue damage of the vaginal epithelia by C. albicans cells. Furthermore, SAP null mutants lacking either SAP1 or SAP2 had a drastically reduced potential to cause tissue damage even though SAP3, SAP4, and SAP7 were up-regulated in these mutants. In contrast the vaginopathic potential of mutants lacking SAP3 or SAP4 to SAP6 was not reduced compared to wild-type cells. These data provide further evidence for a crucial role of Sap1 and Sap2 in C. albicans vaginal infections.
Vaginal isolates of Candida albicans from human immunodeficiency virus-positive (HIV+) and HIV− women with or without candidal vaginitis were examined for secretory aspartyl proteinase (Sap) production in vitro and in vivo and for the possible correlation of Sap production with pathology and antimycotic susceptibility in vitro. HIV+ women with candidal vaginitis were infected by strains of C. albicans showing significantly higher levels of Sap, a virulence enzyme, than strains isolated from HIV+, C. albicans carrier subjects and HIV− subjects with vaginitis. The greater production of Sap in vitro was paralleled by greater amounts of Sap in the vaginal fluids of infected subjects. In an estrogen-dependent, rat vaginitis model, a strain of C. albicans producing a high level of Sap that was isolated from an HIV+ woman with vaginitis was more pathogenic than a strain of C. albicans that was isolated primarily from an HIV−, Candida carrier. In the same model, pepstatin A, a strong Sap inhibitor, exerted a strong curative effect on experimental vaginitis. No correlation was found between Sap production and antimycotic susceptibility, as most of the isolates were fully susceptible to fluconazole, itraconazole, and other antimycotics, regardless of their source (subjects infected with strains producing high or low levels of Sap, subjects with vaginitis or carrier subjects, or subjects with or without HIV). Thus, high Sap production is associated with virulence of C. albicans but not with fungal resistance to fluconazole in HIV-infected subjects, and Sap is a potentially new therapeutic target in candidal vaginitis.
Several strains of Candida albicans were compared for their ability to cause vaginal infection in a rat model, and their vaginopathic potentials were correlated with the expression of two aspartyl proteinases genes (SAP1 and SAP2) and adherence in vivo to the vaginal epithelium. Dot blot reactions and Northern blot analysis with RNA extracted from the vaginal fluid of rats infected with the highly vaginopathic strains H12 and 10261 demonstrated the expression of both SAP1 and SAP2 during the first week of infection. In contrast, neither gene was expressed during infection by a nonvaginopathic strain (N), even though the organism could be recovered during the first 24 h postinfection. A moderately vaginopathic strain (P) also expressed both genes, but the level of SAP1 mRNA appeared to decrease prior to that of SAP2. Neither gene was expressed, even by the highly vaginopathic strains, after the first week of infection, concomitant with a decrease in the number of organisms recovered from the vaginas. Analysis of in vivo adherence showed that the nonvaginopathic strain (N) adhered to vaginal epithelial cells less readily than the highly vaginopathic strain (H12) and moderately vaginopathic strain (P). Thus, in addition to its inability to express SAP1 and SAP2 in vivo, the nonvaginopathic strain does not colonize host cells to the same extent as the other strains tested. Our results demonstrate the early in vivo expression of two aspartyl proteinase gene during candidal vaginitis and suggest its association with the establishment of a vaginal infection.
The indigenous bacterial microbiome of the stomach, including lactobacilli, is vital in promoting colonization resistance against Candida albicans. However, there are gaps in our understanding about C. albicans gastric colonization versus disease, especially during the postantibiotic recovery phase. This study compared the gastric responses to C. albicans strains CHN1 and SC5314 in microbiome-disturbed and germfree mice to elucidate the contribution of the indigenous microbiota in C. albicans colonization versus disease and yeast-bacterium antagonism during the post-cefoperazone recolonization period. C. albicans can prevent the regrowth of Lactobacillus spp. in the stomach after cefoperazone and promote increased colonization by Enterococcus spp. Using a culture-independent analysis, the effects of oral cefoperazone on the gastric bacterial microbiota were observed to last at least 3 weeks after the cessation of the antibiotic. Disturbance of the gastric bacterial community by cefoperazone alone was not sufficient to cause gastritis, C. albicans colonization was also needed. Gastritis was not evident until after day 7 in cefoperazone-treated infected mice. In contrast, in germfree mice which lack a gastric microbiota, C. albicans induced gastric inflammation within 1 week of inoculation. Therefore, the gastric bacterial community in cefoperazone-treated mice during the first week of postantibiotic recolonization was sufficient to prevent the development of gastritis, despite being ineffective at conferring colonization resistance against C. albicans. Altogether, these data implicate a dichotomy between C. albicans colonization and gastric disease that is bacterial microbiome dependent.
Secreted aspartyl proteinases (Saps) are important virulence factors of Candida albicans during mucosal and disseminated infections and may also contribute to the induction of an inflammatory host immune response. We used a model of vaginal candidiasis based on reconstituted human vaginal epithelium (RHVE) to study the epithelial cytokine response induced by C. albicans. In order to study the impact of the overall proteolytic activity and of distinct Sap isoenzymes, we studied the effect of the proteinase inhibitor pepstatin A on the immune response and compared the cytokine expression pattern induced by the wild-type strain SC5314 with the pattern induced by Sap-deficient mutants. Infection of RHVE with the C. albicans wild-type strain induced strong interleukin 1α (IL-1α), IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, gamma interferon, and tumor necrosis factor alpha responses in comparison with cytokine expression in noninfected tissue. Addition of the aspartyl proteinase inhibitor pepstatin A strongly reduced the cytokine response of RHVE. Furthermore, SAP-null mutants lacking either SAP1 or SAP2 caused reduced tissue damage and had a significantly reduced potential to stimulate cytokine expression. In contrast, the vaginopathic and cytokine-inducing potential of mutants lacking SAP4 to SAP6 was similar to that of the wild-type strain. These data show that the potential of specific Saps to cause tissue damage correlates with an epithelium-induced proinflammatory cytokine response, which may be crucial in controlling and managing C. albicans infections at the vaginal mucosa in vivo.
Receipt of broad-spectrum antibiotics enhances Candida albicans colonization of the GI tract, a risk factor for haematogenously-disseminated candidiasis. To understand how antibiotics influence C. albicans colonization, we treated mice orally with vancomycin or a combination of penicillin, streptomycin, and gentamicin (PSG) and then inoculated them with C. albicans by gavage. Only PSG treatment resulted in sustained, high-level GI colonization with C. albicans. Furthermore, PSG reduced bacterial diversity in the colon much more than vancomycin. Both antibiotic regimens significantly reduced IL-17A, IL-21, IL-22 and IFN-γ mRNA levels in the terminal ileum but had limited effect on the GI fungal microbiome. Through a series of models that employed Bayesian model averaging, we investigated the associations between antibiotic treatment, GI microbiota, and host immune response and their collective impact on C. albicans colonization. Our analysis revealed that bacterial genera were typically associated with either C. albicans colonization or altered cytokine expression but not with both. The only exception was Veillonella, which was associated with both increased C. albicans colonization and reduced IL-21 expression. Overall, antibiotic-induced changes in the bacterial microbiome were much more consistent determinants of C. albicans colonization than either the GI fungal microbiota or the GI immune response.
Disseminated candidiasis is the third leading nosocomial blood stream infection in the United States and is often fatal. We previously showed that disseminated candidiasis was preventable in normal mice by immunization with either a glycopeptide or a peptide synthetic vaccine, both of which were Candida albicans cell wall derived. A weakness of these studies is that, unlike humans, mice do not have a C. albicans GI flora and they lack Candida serum antibodies. We examined the influence of C. albicans GI tract colonization and serum antibodies on mouse vaccination responses to the peptide, Fba, derived from fructose bisphosphate aldolase which has cytosolic and cell wall distributions in the fungus. We evaluated the effect of live C. albicans in drinking water and antimicrobial agents on establishment of Candida colonization of the mouse GI tract. Body mass, C. albicans in feces, and fungal-specific serum antibodies were monitored longitudinally. Unexpectedly, C. albicans colonization occurred in mice that received only antibiotics in their drinking water, provided that the mice were housed in the same room as intentionally colonized mice. The fungal strain in unintentionally colonized mice appeared identical to the strain used for intentional GI-tract colonization. This is the first report of horizontal transmission and spontaneous C. albicans colonization in mice. Importantly, many Candida-colonized mice developed serum fungal-specific antibodies. Despite the GI-tract colonization and presence of serum antibodies, the animals made antibodies in response to the Fba immunogen. This mouse model has potential for elucidating C. albicans horizontal transmission and for exploring factors that induce host defense against disseminated candidiasis. Furthermore, a combined protracted GI-tract colonization with Candida and the possibility of serum antibody responses to the presence of the fungus makes this an attractive mouse model for testing the efficacy of vaccines designed to prevent human disseminated candidiasis.
Candida albicans fungemia in cancer patients is thought to develop from initial gastrointestinal (GI) colonization with subsequent translocation into the bloodstream after administration of chemotherapy. It is unclear what components of the innate immune system are necessary for preventing C. albicans dissemination from the GI tract, but we have hypothesized that both neutropenia and GI mucosal damage are critical for allowing widespread invasive C. albicans disease. We investigated these parameters in a mouse model of C. albicans GI colonization that led to systemic spread after administration of immunosuppression and mucosal damage. After depleting resident GI intestinal flora with antibiotic treatment and achieving stable GI colonization levels of C. albicans, it was determined that systemic chemotherapy with cyclophosphamide led to 100% mortality, whereas selective neutrophil depletion, macrophage depletion, lymphopenia or GI mucosal disruption alone resulted in no mortality. Selective neutrophil depletion combined with GI mucosal disruption led to disseminated fungal infection and 100% mortality ensued. GI translocation and dissemination by C. albicans was also dependent on the organism's ability to transform from the yeast to the hyphal form. This mouse model of GI colonization and fungemia is useful for studying factors of innate host immunity needed to prevent invasive C. albicans disease as well as identifying virulence factors that are necessary for fungal GI colonization and dissemination. The model may also prove valuable for evaluating therapies to control C. albicans infections.
Candida albicans is a fungus that lives harmlessly in the gastrointestinal (GI) tracts of humans. In cancer patients and patients undergoing bone marrow transplantation, however, the anti-cancer drugs that are administered to these patients also cause the undesired effect of suppressing the human immune system. The treatments allow C. albicans to spread into the blood and other organs and cause a severe disease. We found we could colonize the GI tracts of mice with C. albicans and then suppress the immune system with anti-cancer drugs to determine which components of the innate immune system (neutrophils, lymphocytes, macrophages, or GI tract integrity) are critical for preventing C. albicans from speading from the GI tract. We found that lowering the neutrophil counts and damaging the GI tract were both needed to cause systemic infection with C. albicans. We also found that the ability of C. albicans to switch from the yeast (spherical) form to the filamentous form is also important for establishing invasive disease. Our study provides new insights into the process of how a typically harmless microorganism inhabiting the GI tract can cause severe invasive disease once critical components of the host immune system are compromised.
Vulvovaginal candidiasis, caused primarily by Candida albicans, presents significant health issues for women of childbearing age. As a polymorphic fungus, the ability of C. albicans to switch between yeast and hyphal morphologies is considered its central virulence attribute. Armed with new criteria for defining vaginitis immunopathology, the purpose of this study was to determine whether the yeast-to-hypha transition is required for the hallmark inflammatory responses previously characterized during murine vaginitis. Kinetic analyses of vaginal infection with C. albicans in C57BL/6 mice demonstrated that fungal burdens remained constant throughout the observation period, while polymorphonuclear leukocyte (PMN), S100A8, and interleukin-1β levels obtained from vaginal lavage fluid increased by day 3 onward. Lactate dehydrogenase activity was also positively correlated with increased effectors of innate immunity. Additionally, immunodepletion of neutrophils in infected mice confirmed a nonprotective role for PMNs during vaginitis. Determination of the importance of fungal morphogenesis during vaginitis was addressed with a two-pronged approach. Intravaginal inoculation of mice with C. albicans strains deleted for key transcriptional regulators (bcr1Δ/Δ, efg1Δ/Δ, cph1Δ/Δ, and efg1Δ/Δ cph1Δ/Δ) controlling the yeast-to-hypha switch revealed a crucial role for morphogenetic signaling through the Efg1 and, to a lesser extent, the Bcr1 pathways in contributing to vaginitis immunopathology. Furthermore, overexpression of transcription factors NRG1 and UME6, to maintain yeast and hyphal morphologies, respectively, confirmed the importance of morphogenesis in generating innate immune responses in vivo. These results highlight the yeast-to-hypha switch and the associated morphogenetic response as important virulence components for the immunopathogenesis of Candida vaginitis, with implications for transition from benign colonization to symptomatic infection.
The vaginopathic potential and the intravaginal morphology of a nongerminative variant of Candida albicans, strain CA-2, were studied in a rat vaginitis model. Although it expressed low virulence in systemic infections, strain CA-2 was capable of causing a vaginal infection of the same duration and extent as that obtained in rats challenged with the germ-tube-forming strain C. albicans 3153 from the stock collection or with a fresh clinical isolate of C. albicans from a case of human vaginitis. During the experimental infection, the CA-2 cells did not maintain their yeast morphology but gave rise to single enlarged-elongated elements (1 to 2 days) which grew predominantly as coarse, short, pseudomycelium-like filaments (2 to 3 days) and then as long threads (7 days). These latter filaments were ultimately indistinguishable from the hyphal filaments formed by the germ-tube-forming strains, which, however, initially developed in the vagina by typical germ tube formation. This peculiar morphological development of strain CA-2 was not observed in organs of systemically infected mice, where, in contrast to strain 3153 which formed typical hyphae, strain CA-2 maintained a typical pattern of yeast growth. Vaginal isolates of strain CA-2 taken at different days of infection were found to be identical to the challenging CA-2 cells, in terms of biochemical characteristics, inability to form germ tubes in any medium at 37 degrees C in vitro, echinocandin resistance, DNA biotype, and low virulence in systemic infections in mice. Thus, experimental vaginitis by strain CA-2 is associated with a peculiar filamentous growth in the vagina, through an apparently novel morphological development bypassing classical germ tube formation but ultimately leading to ordinary hyphae. The elevated vaginopathic potential of strain CA-2, in contrast to its low virulence in systemic infection, also suggests that different Candida virulence factors (and host responses) come into play in local and disseminated candidal infections.
The etiology of recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis in otherwise healthy women of child-bearing age remains an enigma. To date, results from both clinical studies and a murine model of vaginal candidiasis indicate that Candida vaginitis can occur in the presence of Candida-specific Th1-type cell-mediated immunity expressed in the peripheral circulation. The present study was designed to determine the role of circulating CD4 and CD8 cells in primary and secondary vaginal infections with Candida albicans. Vaginal fungal burden, Candida-specific delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH), and lymph node cell Th1/Th2 cytokine production were monitored in CD4 and/or CD8 cell-depleted mice during persistent primary vaginal infections and secondary vaginal infections against which partial protection was observed. Treatment of mice with anti-CD4 or anti-CD8 antibodies resulted in 90% or greater depletion of the respective cell populations. Mice depleted of CD4 cells had significantly reduced Candida-specific DTH and lymph node cell Th1-type cytokine production during a primary vaginal infection, as well as reduced anamnestic DTH during a secondary vaginal infection. In contrast, mice depleted of CD8 cells showed only reduced gamma interferon production during a primary infection; no alterations in DTH were observed. Despite reductions in DTH and cytokine production, however, CD4 and/or CD8 cell depletion had no effect on vaginal C. albicans burden in mice after a primary or secondary vaginal inoculation. Taken together, these results suggest that while circulating CD4 and CD8 cells contribute to systemic Candida-specific cell-mediated immunity in vaginally infected mice, neither CD4 nor CD8 circulating T cells appear to provide significant host defenses against C. albicans at the vaginal mucosa.
Candida albicans is the most common cause of hematogenously disseminated and oropharyngeal candidiasis. Both of these diseases are characterized by fungal invasion of host cells. Previously, we have found that C. albicans hyphae invade endothelial cells and oral epithelial cells in vitro by inducing their own endocytosis. Therefore, we set out to identify the fungal surface protein and host cell receptors that mediate this process. We found that the C. albicans Als3 is required for the organism to be endocytosed by human umbilical vein endothelial cells and two different human oral epithelial lines. Affinity purification experiments with wild-type and an als3Δ/als3Δ mutant strain of C. albicans demonstrated that Als3 was required for C. albicans to bind to multiple host cell surface proteins, including N-cadherin on endothelial cells and E-cadherin on oral epithelial cells. Furthermore, latex beads coated with the recombinant N-terminal portion of Als3 were endocytosed by Chinese hamster ovary cells expressing human N-cadherin or E-cadherin, whereas control beads coated with bovine serum albumin were not. Molecular modeling of the interactions of the N-terminal region of Als3 with the ectodomains of N-cadherin and E-cadherin indicated that the binding parameters of Als3 to either cadherin are similar to those of cadherin–cadherin binding. Therefore, Als3 is a fungal invasin that mimics host cell cadherins and induces endocytosis by binding to N-cadherin on endothelial cells and E-cadherin on oral epithelial cells. These results uncover the first known fungal invasin and provide evidence that C. albicans Als3 is a molecular mimic of human cadherins.
The fungus Candida albicans is usually a harmless colonizer of human mucosal surfaces. In the mouth, it can cause oropharyngeal candidiasis, also called thrush. In hospitalized and immunocompromised patients, C. albicans can enter the blood stream and be carried throughout the body to cause a disseminated infection, which is associated with a mortality rate of up to 40%. The organism invades the epithelial cell lining of the mouth during oropharyngeal candidiasis and invades the endothelial cell lining of the blood vessels during disseminated candidiasis. We discovered that Als3, a protein expressed on the surface of C. albicans, is required for this invasion process. Cadherins on the surface of human cells normally bind other cadherins for adhesion and signaling; however, we found that Als3 also binds to cadherins on endothelial cells and oral epithelial cells, and this binding induces these host cells to take up the fungus. The structure of Als3 is predicted to be quite similar to that of the two cadherins studied, and the parameters of the binding of Als3 to either cadherin are similar to those of cadherin–cadherin binding. These results suggest that Als3 is a functional and structural mimic of human cadherins, and provide new insights into how C. albicans invades host cells.
Als3 aids the invasion of the fungal pathogenCandida albicans into human host cells by mimicking human cadherins to induce endocytosis.
Specialized Candida albicans cell surface proteins called adhesins mediate binding of the fungus to host cells. The mammalian transglutaminase (TG) substrate and adhesin, Hyphal wall protein 1 (Hwp1), is expressed on the hyphal form of C. albicans where it mediates fungal adhesion to epithelial cells. Hwp1 is also required for biofilm formation and mating thus the protein functions in both fungal-host and self-interactions. Hwp1 is required for full virulence of C. albicans in murine models of disseminated candidiasis and of esophageal candidiasis. Previous studies correlated TG activity on the surface of oral epithelial cells, produced by epithelial TG (TG1), with tight binding of C. albicans via Hwp1 to the host cell surfaces. However, the contribution of other Tgs, specifically tissue TG (TG2), to disseminated candidiasis mediated by Hwp1 was not known. A newly created hwp1 null strain in the wild type SC5314 background was as virulent as the parental strain in C57BL/6 mice, and virulence was retained in C57BL/6 mice deleted for Tgm2 (TG2). Further, the hwp1 null strains displayed modestly reduced virulence in BALB/c mice as did strain DD27-U1, an independently created hwp1Δ/Δ in CAI4 corrected for its ura3Δ defect at the URA3 locus. Hwp1 was still needed to produce wild type biofilms, and persist on murine tongues in an oral model of oropharyngeal candidiasis consistent with previous studies by us and others. Finally, lack of Hwp1 affected the translocation of C. albicans from the mouse intestine into the bloodstream of mice. Together, Hwp1 appears to have a minor role in disseminated candidiasis, independent of tissue TG, but a key function in host- and self-association to the surface of oral mucosa.
Cell-mediated immunity by Th1-type CD4+ T cells is the predominant host defense mechanism against mucosal candidiasis. However, studies using an estrogen-dependent murine model of vaginal candidiasis have demonstrated little to no change in resident vaginal T cells during infection and no systemic T-cell infiltration despite the presence of Candida-specific systemic Th1-type responses in infected mice. The present study was designed to further investigate these observations by characterizing T-cell activation and cell adhesion molecule expression during primary and secondary C. albicans vaginal infections. While flow cytometry analysis of activation markers showed some evidence for activation of CD3+ draining lymph node and/or vaginal lymphocytes during both primary and secondary vaginal Candida infection, CD3+ cells expressing the homing receptors and integrins α4β7, αM290β7, and α4β1 in draining lymph nodes of mice with primary and secondary infections were reduced compared to results for uninfected mice. At the local level, few vaginal lymphocytes expressed integrins, with only minor changes observed during both primary and secondary infections. On the other hand, immunohistochemical analysis of vaginal cell adhesion molecule expression showed increases in mucosal addressin cell adhesion molecule 1 and vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 expression during both primary and secondary infections. Altogether, these data suggest that although the vaginal tissue is permissive to cellular infiltration during a vaginal Candida infection, the reduced numbers of systemic cells expressing the reciprocal cellular adhesion molecules may preempt cellular infiltration, thereby limiting Candida-specific T-cell responses against infection.
Oropharyngeal candidiasis is an opportunistic infection considered to be a harbinger of AIDS. The etiologic agent Candida albicans is a fungal species commonly colonizing human mucosal surfaces. However, under conditions of immune dysfunction, colonizing C. albicans can become an opportunistic pathogen causing superficial or even life-threatening infections. The reasons behind this transition, however, are not clear. In the oral cavity, salivary antimicrobial peptides are considered to be an important part of the host innate defense system in the prevention of microbial colonization. Histatin-5 specifically has exhibited potent activity against C. albicans. Our previous studies have shown histatin-5 levels to be significantly reduced in the saliva of HIV+ individuals, indicating an important role for histatin-5 in keeping C. albicans in its commensal stage. The versatility in the pathogenic potential of C. albicans is the result of its ability to adapt through the regulation of virulence determinants, most notably of which are proteolytic enzymes (Saps), involved in tissue degradation. In this study, we show that C. albicans cells efficiently and rapidly degrade histatin-5, resulting in loss of its anti-candidal potency. In addition, we demonstrate that this cellular activity is due to proteolysis by a member of the secreted aspartic proteases (Sap) family involved in C. albicans pathogenesis. Specifically, the proteolysis was attributed to Sap9, in turn identifying histatin-5 as the first host-specific substrate for that isoenzyme. These findings demonstrate for the first time the ability of a specific C. albicans enzyme to degrade and deactivate a host antimicrobial peptide involved in the protection of the oral mucosa against C. albicans, thereby providing new insights into the factors directing the transition of C. albicans from commensal to pathogen, with important clinical implications for alternative therapy. This report characterizes the first defined mechanism behind the enhanced susceptibility of HIV+ individuals to oral candidiasis since the emergence of HIV.
The immunologic effects of in vivo administration of recombinant murine gamma interferon (rMuIFN-gamma) were determined in a murine model of candidiasis. Naive mice were given graded doses of rMuIFN-gamma and then challenged intravenously with Candida albicans. Increased morbidity and mortality were noted in four different strains of mice, viz., BALB/c, A/J, Swiss Webster, and CBA/J, providing the mice had not been immunized with C. albicans before challenge. Quantitative culture of selected organs of Swiss Webster and CBA/J mice surviving treatment with rMuIFN-gamma revealed elevated numbers of C. albicans cells, particularly in the kidneys, but also in the liver, lungs, and spleen. The lungs, livers, and spleen of female CBA/J mice were more protected from increased multiplication of the fungus than were those of males of the same species or female Swiss Webster mice. On the basis of these initial findings, the effect of treatment with 5,000 U of rMuIFN-gamma on immune responses in a gastrointestinal model of candidiasis was determined. CBA/J mice that had been colonized with C. albicans as infants were boosted with a cutaneous inoculation of the fungus when 6 to 10 weeks old; development of delayed hypersensitivity (DH), antibodies, and protective responses was assayed at intervals thereafter. Daily treatment with rMuIFN-gamma (beginning 1 day before cutaneous inoculation) suppressed weak immune responses but had little effect on responses which were strong. For example, DH and anti-C. albicans antibody production were suppressed in animals colonized with C. albicans but not boosted by cutaneous inoculation, and DH was suppressed in uncolonized animals that had been inoculated once cutaneously with the fungus as well. There was no rMuIFN-gamma-induced suppressive effect of DH in mice which had been stimulated maximally with C. albicans, i.e., colonized animals that had been boosted cutaneously with the organisms. Collectively, these data indicate that naive mice or mice with minimal levels of anti-C. albicans sensitivity, females somewhat more so than males, were sensitive to suppressive effects of in vivo treatment with rMuIFN-gamma when challenged with C. albicans. In contrast, under conditions similar to those of humans, in whom underlying immunity to C. albicans is usually present, suppression of host responses to C. albicans was not observed in immunized mice in response to treatment with rMuIFN-gamma.
Mice deficient for phagocyte oxidase (Phox) and nitric oxide synthase 2 (NOS2) (gp91phox−/−/NOS2−/−), defective in the production of both reactive oxygen intermediates (ROI) and reactive nitrogen intermediates (RNI), were used to investigate the role of phagocytic cells during mucosal and systemic candidiasis of endogenous origin. The alimentary tracts of germfree mice were colonized with Candida albicans wild type or each of two hyphal signaling-defective mutants (efg1/efg1 and efg1/efg1 cph1/cph1). All Candida-colonized gp91phox−/−/NOS2−/− mice were moribund within 12 to 15 days after oral inoculation. C. albicans wild-type and mutant strains colonized the alimentary tracts equally well and were able to translocate, most likely via Peyer's patches and mesenteric lymph nodes, to the internal organs and trigger the formation of abscesses; however, the wild-type and mutant strains did not survive in the abscessed murine tissues. Surprisingly, there was no significant difference in the ability of peritoneal exudate cells from gp91phox−/−/NOS2−/−, NOS2−/−, gp91phox−/−, or immunocompetent C57BL/6 mice to kill C. albicans in vitro. This suggests that anti-Candida factors other than ROI and RNI can control the growth of C. albicans and that gp91phox−/−/NOS2−/− mice die due to the inability of the host to control its inflammatory response to Candida. Correspondingly, reverse transcription-PCR analysis showed increased expression of the cytokines gamma interferon, tumor necrosis factor alpha, and the chemokines MIP-2 and KC at the site of infection, while interleukin-15 expression remained relatively unchanged between germfree and infected tissues. These studies indicate that defects in ROI and RNI enabled C. albicans to translocate and disseminate to the internal organs, resulting in an uncontrolled immune response, severe pathology, and death; however, ROI and RNI were not required for the killing of phagocytized C. albicans, indicating that other anti-Candida factors either compensate or are sufficient for the killing of phagocytized Candida.