A variety of morphological changes in the basement membrane (BM) are known to occur in inflammatory diseases. Modifications of the BM can be associated with significant changes in protein content. Candida albicans (C. albicans) is normally a commensal organism and is a member of the natural flora of a large number of healthy individuals. However, under certain conditions, C. albicans can invade host tissues, causing inflammation and tissue damage. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of C. albicans on the expression and production of structural (laminin-5 and type IV collagen) and inflammatory [matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and their inhibitors] proteins by human oral epithelial cells. Using engineered normal human oral mucosa infected with 10(5) C. albicans/cm2 for different periods of time, we were able to demonstrate that this yeast promotes significant laminin-5 and type IV collagen gene activation and protein secretion. These effects were accompanied by MMP-2 and MMP-9 gene activation. Interestingly, only the levels of active MMP-9 rose. The increase in MMP levels was paralleled by a decrease in the secretion of type 2 matrix metalloproteinase tissue inhibitors (TIMP-2). Our results demonstrated that C. albicans has a significant effect on tissue structure through BM protein and MMP modulation. This might help C. albicans overcome the mechanical and biological defenses of the tissue and allow it to disseminate, causing severe infections. If C. albicans uses MMPs (mainly MMP-9) to disseminate, inhibition of this protease could be of interest in treating a variety of inflammatory disorders, including oral candidiasis.