Impact of changes at the Candida albicans cell surface upon immunogenicity and colonisation in the gastrointestinal tract

Gabriela M Avelar, Ivy M Dambuza, Liviana Ricci, Raif Yuecel, Kevin Mackenzie, Delma S Childers, Judith M Bain, Arnab Pradhan, Daniel E Larcombe, Mihai G Netea, Lars P Erwig, Gordon D Brown, Sylvia H Duncan, Neil A R Gow, Alan W Walker, Alistair J P Brown* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The immunogenicity of Candida albicans cells is influenced by changes in the exposure of microbe-associated molecular patterns (MAMPs) on the fungal cell surface. Previously, the degree of exposure on the C. albicans cell surface of the immunoinflammatory MAMP β-(1,3)-glucan was shown to correlate inversely with colonisation levels in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This is important because life-threatening systemic candidiasis in critically ill patients often arises from translocation of C. albicans strains present in the patient's GI tract. Therefore, using a murine model, we have examined the impact of gut-related factors upon β-glucan exposure and colonisation levels in the GI tract. The degree of β-glucan exposure was examined by imaging flow cytometry of C. albicans cells taken directly from GI compartments, and compared with colonisation levels. Fungal β-glucan exposure was lower in the cecum than the small intestine, and fungal burdens were correspondingly higher in the cecum. This inverse correlation did not hold for the large intestine. The gut fermentation acid, lactate, triggers β-glucan masking in vitro, leading to attenuated anti-Candida immune responses. Additional fermentation acids are present in the GI tract, including acetate, propionate, and butyrate. We show that these acids also influence β-glucan exposure on C. albicans cells in vitro and, like lactate, they influence β-glucan exposure via Gpr1/Gpa2-mediated signalling. Significantly, C. albicans gpr1Δ gpa2Δ cells displayed elevated β-glucan exposure in the large intestine and a corresponding decrease in fungal burden, consistent with the idea that Gpr1/Gpa2-mediated β-glucan masking influences colonisation of this GI compartment. Finally, extracts from the murine gut and culture supernatants from the mannan grazing gut anaerobe Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron promote β-glucan exposure at the C. albicans cell surface. Therefore, the local microbiota influences β-glucan exposure levels directly (via mannan grazing) and indirectly (via fermentation acids), whilst β-glucan masking appears to promote C. albicans colonisation of the murine large intestine.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100084
Number of pages13
JournalThe Cell Surface
Early online date20 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by a programme grant from the UK Medical Research Council (MR/M026663/1; MR/M026663/2) and by the Medical Research Council Centre for Medical Mycology (MR/N006364/1; MR/N006364/2). NARG acknowledges Wellcome support for a Senior Investigator (101873/Z/13/Z), Collaborative (200208/A/15/Z; 215599/Z/19/Z) and Strategic Awards (097377/Z11/Z). LR, SHD and AWW received core funding support from the Scottish Government’s Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services (RESAS) division. MGN was supported by an ERC Advanced Grant (833247) and a Spinoza Grant of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.

Data Availability Statement

Supplementary data to this article can be found online at


  • Candida albicans
  • Gut colonisation
  • β-Glucan exposure
  • Cell wall
  • Fungal immunogenicity


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