Candida albicans triggers activation of distinct signaling pathways to establish a proinflammatory gene expression program in primary human endothelial cells

J Immunol. 2007 Dec 15;179(12):8435-45. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.179.12.8435.


Endothelial cells (EC) actively participate in the innate defense against microbial pathogens. Under unfavorable conditions, defense reactions can turn life threatening resulting in sepsis. We therefore studied the so far largely unknown EC reaction patterns to the fungal pathogen Candida albicans, which is a major cause of lethality in septic patients. Using oligonucleotide microarray analysis, we identified 56 genes that were transcriptionally up-regulated and 69 genes that were suppressed upon exposure of ECs to C. albicans. The most significantly up-regulated transcripts were found in gene ontology groups comprising the following categories: chemotaxis/migration; cell death and proliferation; signaling; transcriptional regulation; and cell-cell contacts/intercellular signaling. Further examination of candidate signaling cascades established a central role of the proinflammatory NF-kappaB pathway in the regulation of the Candida-modulated transcriptome of ECs. As a second major regulatory pathway we identified the stress-activated p38 MAPK pathway, which critically contributes to the regulation of selected Candida target genes such as CXCL8/IL-8. Depletion of MyD88 and IL-1R-associated kinase-1 by RNA interference demonstrates that Candida-induced NF-kappaB activation is mediated by pattern recognition receptor signaling. Additional experiments suggest that C. albicans-induced CXCL8/IL-8 expression is mediated by TLR3 rather than TLR2 and TLR4, which previously have been implicated with MyD88/IkappaB kinase-2/NF-kappaB activation by this fungus in other systems. Our study provides the first comprehensive analysis of endothelial gene responses to C. albicans and presents novel insights into the complex signaling patterns triggered by this important pathogen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Candida albicans*
  • Cell Line
  • Endothelial Cells / immunology*
  • Endothelial Cells / microbiology
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Immunity / genetics*
  • Inflammation / genetics*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / microbiology
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • NF-kappa B