Candida albicans: Scientists have discovered previously unknown fungal toxins

"Leibniz active ingredient of the year 2017" is a newly discovered mushroom poison
In theory, fungal infections can occur almost anywhere in the body. The common trigger is the yeast Candida albicans. In international collaboration with British and US colleagues, German researchers identified a poison from the disease-causing yeast Candida albicans. For their discovery, they have now been awarded the “Leibniz Active ingredient of the Year 2017” award.

The honor is addressed to Dr. Duncan Wilson, Dr. Selene Mogavero and Prof. Bernhard Hube from the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology - Hans Knöll Institute - in Jena and Prof. Thomas Gutsmann from the Research Center Borstel - Leibniz Center for Medicine and Biosciences for the discovery of the previously unknown fungus poison. The researchers had published the results of their study on the new mushroom poison in the specialist journal "Nature" and thus attracted international attention.

Mushroom venom Candidalysin perforates the cells
The scientists identified a special peptide called candidalysin that perforates the membrane of the host cell and thus leads to its dissolution (lysis), reports the Hans Knöll Institute. The special mushroom poison "thus makes a decisive contribution to the disease-causing effects of the yeast." The discovery of the poison is worthy of distinction for several reasons. For decades, for example, scientists had failed to detect molecules that are responsible for tissue damage and the course of a fungal infection. These processes are particularly interesting for Candida albicans, since the fungus also occurs in harmless form on mucous membranes.

Toxin was cleverly hidden
The experts report that superficial infections with Candida albicans mainly affect women, very young or old people and also AIDS patients. Candida albicans can even cause life-threatening infections in severely immunocompromised patients. The now discovered fungal poison probably plays a decisive role in the pathological processes. "The reason why the microbiologists only discovered candidalysin after decades of intensive searching is a trick of the fungal pathogen," according to the Hans Knöll Institute. Candida albicans initially formed a larger molecule, a polyprotein, which was first broken down into several parts by an enzyme, among which the pathogenic poison was then found.

New approaches to therapy
With the discovery of the fungal poison Candidalysin, the scientists have taken a decisive step in understanding the disease mechanisms of infectious fungi, and new therapeutic approaches may possibly be derived from this in the future, reports the Hans Knöll Institute. In the fight against dangerous fungal infections, the discovery of the toxin is only the beginning. In further research, the interaction between poison and immune system is now being investigated at the molecular level. The tasks of other genetic components of the fungus in an infection should also be deciphered. Last but not least, it is equally interesting whether candidalysin also has an effect on bacteria or whether there is an exchange between the poison and bacteria in common habitats such as the human intestine, the researchers report. (fp)

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