How the natural diversity of commensal fungi regulates the balance between commensalism and pathogenicity

Opportunistic fungal infections such as those caused by Candida albicans bear a major health hazard for those with weakened immune defenses. In addition to host factors, fungal diseases are also influenced by the genetic diversity in the fungal species. This project aims at understanding how natural variations in C. albicans influence the interaction of the fungus with the mammalian host. Using an experimental model of mucocutaneous infection that allows probing the host response to diverse C. albicans isolates in vivo, we observed dramatic differences in the ability of C. albicans to persist in the oral mucosa, which inversely correlated with the degree and kinetics of immune activation in the host. This project aims at identifying the fungal attributes that determine the quality of the fungal-host interaction and thereby modulate the decision between commensalism and disease. For this, we employ genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic approaches in combination with in vitro and in vivo infection models.


Funding: Gebert Rüf Foundation, Swiss National Science Foundation (Sinergia)



Invasion of C. albicans into the squamous oral epithelium