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Trends Microbiol. 2011 Jun;19(6):263-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2011.01.009. Epub 2011 Feb 25.

Immunosensing during colonization by Candida albicans: does it take a village to colonize the intestine?

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Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology, School of Medicine, Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


Candida albicans, an opportunistic fungal pathogen and a component of the normal flora of the gastrointestinal tract, is a frequent colonizer of humans. Is C. albicans capable of sensing the immune status of its host, a process we term immunosensing, and, if so, how? C. albicans causes serious disease only in immunocompromised hosts and therefore the ability to immunosense would be advantageous to an organism. We propose a speculative model whereby, during colonization, C. albicans produces phenotypic variants that vary in relative concentration depending on host status. One variant is optimized for persistence as a commensal, whereas the other variant has higher capacity to initiate pathogenic interactions. When the ratio of the two variants changes, the pathogenic potential of the population changes. The critical element of this model is that the C. albicans colonizing population is not uniform but is composed of subpopulations of phenotypic variants that are advantageous under different host conditions.

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