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Candidalysin fuels inflammatory bowel disease

Hyphae of Candida albicans invade human epithelial cells. Source: Ricardo Almeida / Leibniz-HKI
Hyphae of Candida albicans invade human epithelial cells. Source: Ricardo Almeida / Leibniz-HKI

Based on a press release by Weill Cornell Medicine

Individual Candida albicans yeast strains in the human gut are as different from each other as the humans that carry them, and some C. albicans strains may damage the gut of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according to a new study from researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine. The findings that were published in Nature suggest a possible way to tailor treatments to individual patients in the future.

The researchers used an array of techniques to study strains, or genetic variants, of Candida albicans from the colons of people with or without ulcerative colitis, a chronic, relapsing and remitting inflammatory disorder of the colon and rectum and one of the main forms of IBD. They found that certain strains, which they call “high-damaging,” produce a potent toxin called candidalysin that damages immune cells.  

Candidalysin was discovered in 2016 in the research groups of Cluster Member Bernhard Hube and Julian Naglik at King's College London. It is the first peptide toxin discovered in a human pathogenic fungus. "The toxin is responsible for cell damage in epithelial cells, i.e. surface tissues such as mucous membranes," explains Bernhard Hube. Since its discovery, it has been identified as a virulence factor in vaginal or oral candidiasis, among others. Only C. albicans strains that produce candidalysin cause corresponding damage, as the current study confirms.

Read more in the original press release by Weill Cornell Medicine.

Original publication
Li XV, Leonardi I, Putzel GG, Semon A, Fiers WD, Kusakabe T, Lin W-Y, Gao IH, Doron I, Gutierrez-Guerrero A, DeCelie MB, Carriche GM, Mesko M, Yang C, Naglik JR, Hube B, Scherl EJ, Iliev ID (2022). Immune regulation by fungal strain diversity in inflammatory bowel disease. Nature. Read it here