The aryl hydrocarbon receptor governs epithelial cell invasion during oropharyngeal candidiasis
PublisherAmerican Society for Microbiology
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AbstractOropharyngeal candidiasis (OPC), caused predominantly by Candida albicans, is a prevalent infection in patients with advanced AIDS, defects in Th17 immunity, and head and neck cancer. A characteristic feature of OPC is fungal invasion of the oral epithelial cells. One mechanism by which C. albicans hyphae can invade oral epithelial cells is by expressing the Als3 and Ssa1 invasins that interact with the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) on epithelial cells and stimulate endocytosis of the organism. However, the signaling pathways that function downstream of EGFR and mediate C. albicans endocytosis are poorly defined. Here, we report that C. albicans infection activates the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (Ah R), leading to activation of Src family kinases (SFKs), which in turn phosphorylate EGFR and induce endocytosis of the fungus. Furthermore, treatment of oral epithelial cells with interferon gamma inhibits fungal endocytosis by inducing the synthesis of kynurenines, which cause prolonged activation of Ah R and SFKs, thereby interfering with C. albicans-induced EGFR signaling. Treatment of both immunosuppressed and immunocompetent mice with an Ah R inhibitor decreases phosphorylation of SFKs and EGFR in the oral mucosa, reduces fungal invasion, and lessens the severity of OPC. Thus, our data indicate that Ah R plays a central role in governing the pathogenic interactions of C. albicans with oral epithelial cells during OPC and suggest that this receptor is a potential therapeutic target. IMPORTANCE OPC is caused predominantly by the fungus C. albicans, which can invade the oral epithelium by several mechanisms. One of these mechanisms is induced endocytosis, which is stimulated when fungal invasins bind to epithelial cell receptors such as EGFR. Receptor binding causes rearrangement of epithelial cell microfilaments, leading to the formation of pseudopods that engulf the fungus and pull it into the epithelial cell. We discovered Ah R acts via SFKs to phosphorylate EGFR and induce the endocytosis of C. albicans. Our finding that a small molecule inhibitor of Ah R ameliorates OPC in mice suggests that a strategy of targeting host cell signaling pathways that govern epithelial cell endocytosis of C. albicans holds promise as a new approach to preventing or treating OPC. Copyright 2017 Solis et al.
SponsorsThis work was supported in part by NIH grants 1R01DE026600 (S.G.F. and V.M.B.), U19AI110820 (S.G.F. and V.M.B.), R01DE022550 (S.L.G.), and UL1TR001881 (S.G.F.).
Identifier to cite or link to this itemhttps://www.scopus.com/inward/record.uri?eid=2-s2.0-85019154017&doi=10.1128%2fmBio.00025-17&partnerID=40&md5=f931fec8bb944079c5aee43af52fe4ec; http://hdl.handle.net/10713/10032