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Clin Microbiol Rev. 2004 Apr;17(2):281-310.

Surface glycans of Candida albicans and other pathogenic fungi: physiological roles, clinical uses, and experimental challenges.

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Department of Pathology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22908-0904, USA.


Although fungi have always been with us as commensals and pathogens, fungal infections have been increasing in frequency over the past few decades. There is a growing body of literature describing the involvement of carbohydrate groups in various aspects of fungal disease. Carbohydrates comprising the cell wall or capsule, or as a component of glycoproteins, are the fungal cell surface entities most likely to be exposed to the surrounding environment. Thus, the fungus-host interaction is likely to involve carbohydrates before DNA, RNA, or even protein. The interaction between fungal and host cells is also complex, and early studies using whole cells or crude cell fractions often produced seemingly conflicting results. What was needed, and what has been developing, is the ability to identify specific glycan structures and determine how they interact with immune system components. Carbohydrate analysis is complicated by the complexity of glycan structures and by the challenges of separating and detecting carbohydrates experimentally. Advances in carbohydrate chemistry have enabled us to move from the foundation of composition analysis to more rapid characterization of specific structures. This, in turn, will lead to a greater understanding of how fungi coexist with their hosts as commensals or exist in conflict as pathogens.

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