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Infect Immun. 2017 Jan 26;85(2). pii: e00832-16. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00832-16. Print 2017 Feb.

Phagosomal Neutralization by the Fungal Pathogen Candida albicans Induces Macrophage Pyroptosis.

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Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, The University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, Texas, USA


The interaction of Candida albicans with the innate immune system is the key determinant of the pathogen/commensal balance and has selected for adaptations that facilitate the utilization of nutrients commonly found within the host, including proteins and amino acids; many of the catabolic pathways needed to assimilate these compounds are required for persistence in the host. We have shown that C. albicans co-opts amino acid catabolism to generate and excrete ammonia, which raises the extracellular pH, both in vitro and in vivo and induces hyphal morphogenesis. Mutants defective in the uptake or utilization of amino acids, such as those lacking STP2, a transcription factor that regulates the expression of amino acid permeases, are impaired in multiple aspects of fungus-macrophage interactions resulting from an inability to neutralize the phagosome. Here we identified a novel role in amino acid utilization for Ahr1p, a transcription factor previously implicated in regulation of adherence and hyphal morphogenesis. Mutants lacking AHR1 were defective in growth, alkalinization, and ammonia release on amino acid-rich media, similar to stp2Δ and ahr1Δ stp2Δ cells, and occupied more acidic phagosomes. Notably, ahr1Δ and stp2Δ strains did not induce pyroptosis, as measured by caspase-1-dependent interleukin-1β release, though this phenotype could be suppressed by pharmacological neutralization of the phagosome. Altogether, we show that C. albicans-driven neutralization of the phagosome promotes hyphal morphogenesis, sufficient for induction of caspase-1-mediated macrophage lysis.


Ahr1; Candida albicans; alkalinization; macrophages; pyroptosis

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