Commensal intestinal microbes are collectively beneficial in preventing local tissue injury and augmenting systemic antimicrobial immunity. However, given the near-exclusive focus on bacterial species in establishing these protective benefits, the contributions of other types of commensal microbes remain poorly defined. Here, we show that commensal fungi can functionally replace intestinal bacteria by conferring protection against injury to mucosal tissues and positively calibrating the responsiveness of circulating immune cells. Susceptibility to colitis and influenza A virus infection occurring upon commensal bacteria eradication is efficiently overturned by mono-colonization with either Candida albicans or Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The protective benefits of commensal fungi are mediated by mannans, a highly conserved component of fungal cell walls, since intestinal stimulation with this moiety alone overrides disease susceptibility in mice depleted of commensal bacteria. Thus, commensal enteric fungi safeguard local and systemic immunity by providing tonic microbial stimulation that can functionally replace intestinal bacteria.
Keywords: Candida albicans; Saccharomyces cerevisiae; commensal microbes; dextran sodium sulfate; fungal immunity; influenza A virus; mannans.
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