Paper of the month in May: DGHM has chosen our latest Nature publication

| by Steffi Feller

We're really proud that our latest Nature publication on C. albicans gut colonization and our favourite toxin candidalysin has been chosen as Paper of the Month by the German Society for Hygiene and Microbiology (DGHM):

The hyphal-specific toxin candidalysin promotes fungal gut commensalism

Liang SH, Sircaik S, Dainis J, Kakade P, Penumutchu S, McDonough LD, Chen YH, Frazer C, Schille TB, Allert S, Elshafee O, Hänel M, Mogavero S, Vaishnava S, Cadwell K, Belenky P, Perez JC, Hube B, Ene IV, Bennett RJ.(2024) Nature 627(8004), 620-627.


The fungus Candida albicans frequently colonizes the human gastrointestinal tract, from which it can disseminate to cause systemic disease. This polymorphic species can transition between growing as single-celled yeast and as multicellular hyphae to adapt to its environment. The current dogma of C. albicans commensalism is that the yeast form is optimal for gut colonization, whereas hyphal cells are detrimental to colonization but critical for virulence1-3. Here, we reveal that this paradigm does not apply to multi-kingdom communities in which a complex interplay between fungal morphology and bacteria dictates C. albicans fitness. Thus, whereas yeast-locked cells outcompete wild-type cells when gut bacteria are absent or depleted by antibiotics, hyphae-competent wild-type cells outcompete yeast-locked cells in hosts with replete bacterial populations. This increased fitness of wild-type cells involves the production of hyphal-specific factors including the toxin candidalysin4,5, which promotes the establishment of colonization. At later time points, adaptive immunity is engaged, and intestinal immunoglobulin A preferentially selects against hyphal cells1,6. Hyphal morphotypes are thus under both positive and negative selective pressures in the gut. Our study further shows that candidalysin has a direct inhibitory effect on bacterial species, including limiting their metabolic output. We therefore propose that C. albicans has evolved hyphal-specific factors, including candidalysin, to better compete with bacterial species in the intestinal niche.

Congratulations to all co-authors!