Research News Fungal boosters: sugars on the surface of Candida albicans enhance the memory of innate immune cells

2 April 2024

Researchers at the department of Internal Medicine have found that specific polysaccharides (mannans) of the cell wall of the fungus Candida albicans are responsible for enhancing the strength of the memory characteristics of innate immune cells, process known also as trained immunity. Integrating these results with previous evidence, mannans should be considered as potential adjuvant in the development of trained immunity-based vaccines, thereby offering an enhanced line of defense not only against fungi, but also against other infectious diseases. Those findings were recently published by the research group led by Mihai Netea in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Within the community of microorganisms inhabiting the human body, the fungus Candida resides different body sites without causing any harm. However, perturbations in both the fungus pathogenicity and the human immune system can lead to infections of either the mucosae of the digestive or reproductive tracts, or systemic infections with unacceptably high mortality rates. Despite the efforts, current antifungal drugs targeting cell wall polysaccharides, such as β-glucans, are only partially effective at preventing recurrent infections and no fungal vaccines exist to date. The cell wall is an attractive target in the field of medical microbiology due to its crucial role in host interaction and immune response activation. Prior research has shown that both Candida albicans and its cell wall component β-glucan are able to induce innate immune memory, known as trained immunity, thus eliciting long-term protection against subsequent infections.

In the recent publication entitled “C. albicans N-linked mannans potentiate the induction of trained immunity via Dectin-2”, Diletta Rosati together with Mariolina Bruno and their colleagues from the Internal Medicine Department and the University of Exeter (UK) explored the potential of sugars on the surface of Candida albicans, known as mannans, to further potentiate trained immunity. Using C. albicans genetically modified in genes involved in the modification (mannosylation) of those sugars, the researchers demonstrated that the cell wall polysaccharide mannan amplifies β-glucan-induced trained immunity and that this process is mediated by the receptor know as Dectin-2.

The finding of this study strengthen the idea of using mannans as potential amplifiers in trained immunity-based vaccines  to further improve infection prevention.


C. albicans N-linked mannans potentiate the induction of trained immunity via Dectin-2. Rosati D.,  Pradhan A., van Heck J.I.P., Helder L., Jaeger M., Gow N.A.R, Joosten L.A.B., Williams D.L., Brown A.J.P., Bruno M. and Mihai G Netea.

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