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PLoS Pathog. 2006 Dec;2(12):e129.

Fungal invasion of normally non-phagocytic host cells.

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Division of Infectious Diseases at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, California, United States of America.


Many fungi that cause invasive disease invade host epithelial cells during mucosal and respiratory infection, and subsequently invade endothelial cells during hematogenous infection. Most fungi invade these normally non-phagocytic host cells by inducing their own uptake. Candida albicans hyphae interact with endothelial cells in vitro by binding to N-cadherin on the endothelial cell surface. This binding induces rearrangement of endothelial cell microfilaments, which results in the endocytosis of the organism. The capsule of Cryptococcus neoformans is composed of glucuronoxylomannan, which binds specifically to brain endothelial cells, and appears to mediate both adherence and induction of endocytosis. The mechanisms by which other fungal pathogens induce their own uptake are largely unknown. Some angioinvasive fungi, such as Aspergillus species and the Zygomycetes, invade endothelial cells from the abluminal surface during the initiation of invasive disease, and subsequently invade the luminal surface of endothelial cells during hematogenous dissemination. Invasion of normally non-phagocytic host cells has different consequences, depending on the type of invading fungus. Aspergillus fumigatus blocks apoptosis of pulmonary epithelial cells, whereas Paracoccidioides brasiliensis induces apoptosis of epithelial cells. This review summarizes the mechanisms by which diverse fungal pathogens invade normally non-phagocytic host cells and discusses gaps in our knowledge that provide opportunities for future research.

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