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J Biol Chem. 2005 Mar 18;280(11):10455-61. Epub 2005 Jan 4.

N-cadherin mediates endocytosis of Candida albicans by endothelial cells.

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St. John's Cardiovascular Research Center, Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, 1124 W. Carson St., Torrance, California 90502, USA.


Candida albicans is the most common cause of fungal bloodstream infections. To invade the deep tissues, blood-borne organisms must cross the endothelial cell lining of the vasculature. We have found previously that C. albicans hyphae, but not blastospores, invade endothelial cells in vitro by inducing their own endocytosis. Therefore, we set out to identify the endothelial cell receptor that mediates the endocytosis of C. albicans. We determined that endocytosis of C. albicans was not mediated by bridging molecules in the serum and that it was partially dependent on the presence of extracellular calcium. Using an affinity purification procedure, we discovered that endothelial cell N-cadherin bound to C. albicans hyphae but not blastospores. N-cadherin also co-localized with C. albicans hyphae that were being endocytosed by endothelial cells. Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells expressing human N-cadherin endocytosed significantly more C. albicans hyphae than did CHO cells expressing either human VE-cadherin or no human cadherins. The expression of N-cadherin by the CHO cells resulted in enhanced endocytosis of hyphae, but not blastospores, indicating the selectivity of the N-cadherin-mediated endocytosis. Down-regulation of endothelial cell N-cadherin expression with small interfering RNA significantly inhibited the endocytosis of C. albicans hyphae. Therefore, a novel function of N-cadherin is that it serves as an endothelial cell receptor, which mediates the endocytosis of C. albicans.

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