Molecular organization of the cell wall of Candida albicans and its relation to pathogenicity

Authors


  • Editor: Lex Scheffers

José Ruiz-Herrera, Departamento de Ingeniería Genética, Unidad Irapuato, Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del IPN, Apartado Postal 629, 36500 Irapuato, Gto, Mexico. Tel.: +52 462 6239600; fax: +52 462 6245849; e-mail: jruiz@ira.cinvestav.mx

Abstract

Candida albicans is one of the most important opportunistic pathogenic fungi. Weakening of the defense mechanisms of the host, and the ability of the microorganism to adapt to the environment prevailing in the host tissues, turn the fungus from a rather harmless saprophyte into an aggressive pathogen. The disease, candidiasis, ranges from light superficial infections to deep processes that endanger the life of the patient. In the establishment of the pathogenic process, the cell wall of C. albicans (as in other pathogenic fungi) plays an important role. It is the outer structure that protects the fungus from the host defense mechanisms and initiates the direct contact with the host cells by adhering to their surface. The wall also contains important antigens and other compounds that affect the homeostatic equilibrium of the host in favor of the parasite. In this review, we discuss our present knowledge of the structure of the cell wall of C. albicans, the synthesis of its different components, and the mechanisms involved in their organization to give rise to a coherent composite. Furthermore, special emphasis has been placed on two further aspects: how the composition and structure of C. albicans cell wall compare with those from other fungi, and establishing the role of some specific wall components in pathogenesis. From the data presented here, it becomes clear that the composition, structure and synthesis of the cell wall of C. albicans display both subtle and important differences with the wall of different saprophytic fungi, and that some of these differences are of utmost importance for its pathogenic behavior.

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