Effect of melanin and carotenoids of Exophiala (Wangiella) dermatitidis on phagocytosis, oxidative burst, and killing by human neutrophils

Infect Immun. 1999 Jan;67(1):94-101. doi: 10.1128/IAI.67.1.94-101.1999.


The black yeast Exophiala (Wangiella) dermatitidis is an increasingly recognized pathogen and a leading cause of severe pheohyphomycosis. Melanin is thought to contribute to the virulence of E. dermatitidis. Whereas the synthesis and the redox properties of melanin have been studied intensively, the influence of melanin and carotenoids on the phagocytosis, the oxidative burst, and the killing of E. dermatitidis by human neutrophils has not been studied. To study their effects on these phenomena, we applied a combination of flow cytometry and a colony-count-dependent method. Using E. dermatitidis wild-type strain 8565 and several melanin-deficient mutants that have been described previously, we demonstrate that melanin prevents this pathogen from being killed in the phagolysosome of the neutrophils. Melanin did not influence the phagocytosis or the oxidative burst of the neutrophils involved. The carotenoids torulene and torularhodine were not found to contribute to the prevention of killing. The ability of E. dermatitidis to block the effects of the neutrophil oxidative burst may critically impair the potential of the host to sufficiently eliminate this fungal pathogen and thus may play an important role in the pathogenesis of phaeohyphomycosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Bactericidal Activity / immunology*
  • Carotenoids / physiology*
  • Exophiala / genetics
  • Exophiala / growth & development
  • Exophiala / immunology*
  • Fluoresceins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Gene Deletion
  • Humans
  • Melanins / deficiency
  • Melanins / genetics
  • Melanins / physiology*
  • Neutrophils / immunology
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Neutrophils / microbiology*
  • Phagocytosis / genetics
  • Phagocytosis / immunology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / immunology
  • Respiratory Burst / immunology*
  • Staining and Labeling


  • Fluoresceins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Melanins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Carotenoids
  • 2',7'-bis(carboxyethyl)-5(6)-carboxyfluorescein