Oroesophageal candidiasis is caused by the combined action of fungal virulence factors and host inflammatory responses when protective immunity is absent. Hyphal wall protein 1 (Hwp1) on germ tubes and true hyphae of Candida albicans forms covalent cross-links to buccal epithelial cells in vitro by functioning as a substrate for mammalian transglutaminases. In this study, beige-athymic (bg/bg-nu/nu) or transgenic epsilon 26 mice that have combined natural killer and T cell defects did not succumb to candidiasis after oral administration of C. albicans strains with inactivated HWP1 genes, whereas mice given isogenic strains of C. albicans that had a single copy of HWP1 survived only 2-3 weeks. Illness correlated with extensive alterations of the lingual and esophageal mucosa that were absent in mice given the hwp1/hwp1 mutant. HWP1 is a promising target for development of antifungal drugs for treatment of oroesophageal candidiasis.