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Candidalysin activates innate epithelial immune responses via epidermal growth factor receptor

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Jemima Ho, Xuexin Yang, Spyridoula Angeliki Nikou, Nessim Kichik, Andrew Donkin, Nicole O. Ponde, Jonathan P Richardson, Remi L. Gratacap, Linda S. Archambault, Christian P. Zwirner, Celia Murciano, Rhonda Henley-Smith, Selvam Thavaraj, Christopher J. Tynan, Sarah L. Gaffen, Bernhard Hube, Robert T. Wheeler, David L Moyes, Julian R Naglik

Original languageEnglish
Article number2297
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Early online date24 May 2019
Accepted/In press9 Apr 2019
E-pub ahead of print24 May 2019
Published1 Dec 2019


King's Authors


Candida albicans is a fungal pathobiont, able to cause epithelial cell damage and immune activation. These functions have been attributed to its secreted toxin, candidalysin, though the molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. Here, we identify epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) as a critical component of candidalysin-triggered immune responses. We find that both C. albicans and candidalysin activate human epithelial EGFR receptors and candidalysin-deficient fungal mutants poorly induce EGFR phosphorylation during murine oropharyngeal candidiasis. Furthermore, inhibition of EGFR impairs candidalysin-triggered MAPK signalling and release of neutrophil activating chemokines in vitro, and diminishes neutrophil recruitment, causing significant mortality in an EGFR-inhibited zebrafish swimbladder model of infection. Investigation into the mechanism of EGFR activation revealed the requirement of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), EGFR ligands and calcium. We thus identify a PAMP-independent mechanism of immune stimulation and highlight candidalysin and EGFR signalling components as potential targets for prophylactic and therapeutic intervention of mucosal candidiasis.

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