Oral Tolerance Induction in Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis with Candida utilis Expressing the Immunogenic MOG35-55 Peptide

PLoS One. 2016 May 9;11(5):e0155082. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0155082. eCollection 2016.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that attacks myelinated axons in the central nervous system. Induction of oral tolerance is a potent mechanism to prevent autoimmunity. The food yeast Candida utilis was used to test the therapeutic potential of oral tolerance induction in an animal model of human multiple sclerosis (MS). We constructed a C. utilis strain, which displays a fusion peptide composed of the encephalitogenic MOG35-55 peptide and the C. utilis Gas1 cell wall protein on its surface.By immunizing mice with MOG35-55 peptide experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) was induced in a mouse model. Feeding of mice with C. utilis that expresses MOG35-55 peptide on its surface was started seven days prior to immunization and was continued for ten days. Control animals were treated with wild-type fungus or left untreated. Untreated mice developed first clinical symptoms ten days post immunization (p. i.) with an ascending paralysis reaching maximal clinical disability at day 18 to 20 p. i.. Treatment with the wild-type strain demonstrated comparable clinical symptoms. In contrast, oral gavage of MOG35-55-presenting fungus ameliorated the development of EAE. In addition, incidence as well as maximal clinical disease severity were significantly reduced. Interestingly, reduction of disease severity also occurred in animals treated with heat-inactivated C. utilis cells indicating that tolerance induction was independent of fungal viability. Better disease outcome correlated with reduced demyelination and cellular inflammation in the spinal cord, lower T cell proliferation against rechallenge with MOG35-55 and more regulatory T cells in the lymph nodes. Our data demonstrate successful that using the food approved fungus C. utilis presenting the immunogenic MOG35-55 peptide on its surface induced an oral tolerance against this epitope in EAE. Further studies will reveal the nature and extent of an anti-inflammatory environment established by the treatment that prevents the development of an autoimmune disorder affecting the CNS.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Candida / immunology*
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / immunology*
  • Immune Tolerance*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Myelin-Oligodendrocyte Glycoprotein / chemistry*
  • Peptide Fragments / administration & dosage*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Myelin-Oligodendrocyte Glycoprotein
  • Peptide Fragments

Grant support

CB was funded by the Cluster of Industrial Biotechnology NRW CLIB2021. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.