In the present study we investigated activity of oleuropein, a complex phenol present in large quantities in olive tree products, against opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans. Oleuropein was found to have in vitro antifungal activity with a minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) value of 12.5 mg·mL-1. Morphological changes in the nuclei after staining with fluorescent DNA-binding dyes revealed that apoptosis was a primary mode of cell death in the analyzed samples treated with subinhibitory concentrations of oleuropein. Our results suggest that this antifungal agent targets virulence factors essential for establishment of the fungal infection. We noticed that oleuropein modulates morphogenetic conversion and inhibits filamentation of C. albicans. The hydrophobicity assay showed that oleuropein in sub-MIC values has significantly decreased, in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions, the cellular surface hydrophobicity (CSH) of C. albicans, a factor associated with adhesion to epithelial cells. It was also demonstrated that the tested compound inhibits the activity of SAPs, cellular enzymes secreted by C. albicans, which are reported to be related to the pathogenicity of the fungi. Additionally, we detected that oleuropein causes a reduction in total sterol content in the membrane of C. albicans cells, which might be involved in the mechanism of its antifungal activity.
Keywords: Candida albicans; antifungal activity; oleuropein; virulence factors.