Differential phagocytosis of white versus opaque Candida albicans by Drosophila and mouse phagocytes

PLoS One. 2008 Jan 23;3(1):e1473. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001473.


The human fungal pathogen Candida albicans resides asymptomatically in the gut of most healthy people but causes serious invasive diseases in immunocompromised patients. Many C. albicans strains have the ability to stochastically switch between distinct white and opaque cell types, but it is not known with certainty what role this switching plays in the physiology of the organism. Here, we report a previously undescribed difference between white and opaque cells, namely their interaction with host phagocytic cells. We show that both Drosophila hemocyte-derived S2 cells and mouse macrophage-derived RAW264.7 cells preferentially phagocytose white cells over opaque cells. This difference is seen both in the overall percentage of cultured cells that phagocytose white versus opaque C. albicans and in the average number of C. albicans taken up by each phagocytic cell. We conclude that susceptibility to phagocytosis by cells of the innate immune system is an important distinction between white and opaque C. albicans, and propose that one role of switching from the prevalent white form into the rarer opaque form may be to allow C. albicans to escape phagocytosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Candida albicans / immunology*
  • Cell Line
  • Drosophila melanogaster / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Phagocytes / immunology*
  • Phagocytosis*
  • Species Specificity