All-Trans Retinoic Acid Effect on Candida albicans Growth and Biofilm Formation

J Fungi (Basel). 2022 Oct 5;8(10):1049. doi: 10.3390/jof8101049.


Candida albicans (C. albicans) is the most common fungal pathogen causing recurrent mucosal and life-threatening systemic infections. The ability to switch from yeast to hyphae and produce biofilm are the key virulence determinants of this fungus. In fact, Candida biofilms on medical devices represent the major risk factor for nosocomial bloodstream infections. Novel antifungal strategies are required given the severity of systemic candidiasis, especially in immunocompromised patients, and the lack of effective anti-biofilm treatments. Retinoids have gained attention recently due to their antifungal properties.

Material and methods: The present study aimed at evaluating the in vitro effects of different concentrations (300 to 18.75 µg/mL) of All-trans Retinoic Acid (ATRA), a vitamin A metabolite, on Candida growth and biofilm formation.

Results: ATRA completely inhibited the fungal growth, by acting as both fungicidal (at 300 µg/mL) and fungistatic (at 150 µg/mL) agent. Furthermore, ATRA was found to negatively affect Candida biofilm formation in terms of biomass, metabolic activity and morphology, in a dose-dependent manner, and intriguingly, its efficacy was as that of amphotericin B (AmB) (2-0.12 μg/mL). Additionally, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) analysis showed that at 300 μg/mL ATRA induced plasma membrane damage in Candida cells, confirming its direct toxic effect against the fungus.

Conclusion: Altogether, the results suggest that ATRA has a potential for novel antifungal strategies aimed at preventing and controlling biofilm-associated Candida infections.

Keywords: C. albicans; TEM analysis; all-trans retinoic acid; anti-biofilm activity; antifungal effect; fungal infections; morphotype switching.