2002 J Invest Dermatol. 2002 Apr;118(4):652-7.
Department of Dermatology and Allergology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany. [email protected]

Infection of human oral epithelia with Candida species induces cytokine expression correlated to the degree of virulence

A defined and balanced immunomodulatory response is crucial for the protection of mucosal surfaces being in contact with pathogenic microorganisms. This study examined the local host response mechanisms of epithelial cells in experimental Candida albicans, C. tropicalis, and C. glabrata infections by measuring the expression of cytokines at the mRNA and protein level. During the course of infection with active but not with heat-killed C. albicans stimulation of the gene expression levels for interleukin-1alpha, interleukin-1beta, tumor necrosis factor, Exodus-2, P-selectin ligand, granulocyte-monocyte colony-stimulating factor, and interleukin-8 was observed by standard and quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. This cytokine pattern may favor a chemotactic and a T helper 1 response. Initial moderate or weak upregulation of these cytokine genes by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction was also observed in epithelial infection with the less virulent species C. tropicalis and C. glabrata. Heat-killed C. albicans failed to induce an epithelial immune response. At the protein level, expression of interleukin-8 protein was strongly enhanced during the course of C. albicans infection, whereas lower levels were seen with C. tropicalis and C. glabrata. The different expression patterns of cytokines were associated with differences in virulence of the Candida strains. This study's data, therefore, show a correlation between the virulence potential of pathogenic fungi, possibly mediated by specific virulence factors (such as proteinases), and the secretion of epithelial cytokines and chemokines, which may initiate in vivo a protective T helper 1 immunologic response and contribute to the recruitment of activated leukocytes and lymphocytes to the site of mucosal infection.