Candida albicans infection leads to barrier breakdown and a MAPK/NF-κB mediated stress response in the intestinal epithelial cell line C2BBe1.
Intestinal epithelial cells (IEC) form a tight barrier to the gut lumen. Paracellular permeability of the intestinal barrier is regulated by tight junction proteins and can be modulated by microorganisms and other stimuli. The polymorphic fungus Candida albicans, a frequent commensal of the human mucosa has the capacity of traversing this barrier and establishing systemic disease within the host. Infection of polarized C2BBe1 IEC with wild-type C. albicans led to a transient increase of transepithelial electric resistance (TEER) before subsequent barrier disruption, accompanied by a strong decline of junctional protein levels and substantial, but considerably delayed cytotoxicity. Time-resolved microarray-based transcriptome analysis of C. albicans challenged IEC revealed a prominent role of NF-κB and MAPK signaling pathways in the response to infection. Hence, we inferred a gene regulatory network based on differentially expressed NF-κB and MAPK pathway components and their predicted transcriptional targets. The network model predicted activation of GDF15 by NF-κB was experimentally validated. Furthermore, inhibition of NF-κB activation in C. albicans infected C2BBe1 cells led to enhanced cytotoxicity in the epithelial cells. Taken together our study identifies NF-κB activation as an important protective signaling pathway in the response of epithelial cells to C. albicans.