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Curr Microbiol. 2014 Sep;69(3):303-10. doi: 10.1007/s00284-014-0585-9. Epub 2014 Apr 22.

Formic acid and acetic acid induce a programmed cell death in pathogenic Candida species.

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Department of Microbiology and Biotechnology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Vilnius University, M.K. Čiurlionio str. 21/27, LT-03101, Vilnius, Lithuania.


Cutaneous fungal infections are common and widespread. Antifungal agents used for the treatment of these infections often have undesirable side effects. Furthermore, increased resistance of the microorganisms to the antifungal drugs becomes the growing problem. Accordingly, the search for natural antifungal compounds continues to receive attention. Apoptosis is highly regulated programmed cell death. During yeast cell apoptosis, amino acids and peptides are released and can stimulate regeneration of human epithelium cells. Thus, detection of chemical compounds inducing apoptosis in yeast and nontoxic for humans is of great medical relevance. The aim of this study was to detect chemical compound inducing apoptosis in pathogenic Candida species with the lowest toxicity to the mammalian cells. Five chemical compounds--acetic acid, sodium bicarbonate, potassium carbonate, lithium acetate, and formic acid--were tested for evaluation of antifungal activity on C. albicans, C. guilliermondii, and C. lusitaniae. The results showed that acetic acid and formic acid at the lowest concentrations induced yeast cells death. Apoptosis analysis revealed that cells death was accompanied by activation of caspase. Minimal inhibitory concentrations of potassium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate induced Candida cells necrosis. Toxicity test with mammalian cell cultures showed that formic acid has the lowest effect on the growth of Jurkat and NIH 3T3 cells. In conclusion, our results show that a low concentration of formic acid induces apoptosis-like programmed cell death in the Candida yeast and has a minimal effect on the survivability of mammalian cells, suggesting potential applications in the treatment of these infections.

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