Calprotectin is a calcium- and zinc-binding protein that is present in abscess fluid supernatants and appears to inhibit microbial growth through competition for zinc. In the present study, growth inhibition by chemical chelators was compared with that produced by human abscess fluid to determine whether other chelators, perhaps with different metal specificities, would have the same or different patterns of metal reversibility as abscess fluid. Zinc was found to be more potent than the other metals tested in reversing C. albicans growth inhibition by human abscess fluid and three chemical chelators, even though in some cases the stability constants of certain of these chelators were higher for other metals. For example, in the presence of the chelator diethylenetriaminopentaacetic acid, zinc stimulated Candida growth at a 10-fold lower concentration than did iron, even though this chelator has a stability constant for iron that is almost 10(10) higher than that for zinc. These results suggest that the zinc specificity of calprotectin's C. albicans growth inhibition can best be explained by the marked sensitivity of this organism to zinc deprivation rather than by selective binding of this metal by the protein.