Human α-Defensin 6 Self-Assembly Prevents Adhesion and Suppresses Virulence Traits of Candida albicans.

PMID 28026958


Human α-defensin 6 (HD6) is a host-defense peptide that contributes to intestinal innate immunity and mediates homeostasis at mucosal surfaces by forming noncovalent oligomers that capture bacteria and prevent bacterial invasion of the epithelium. This work illustrates a new role of HD6 in defending the host epithelium against pathogenic microorganisms. We report that HD6 blocks adhesion of Candida albicans to human intestinal epithelial cells and suppresses two C. albicans virulence traits, namely, invasion of human epithelial cells and biofilm formation. Moreover, a comparison of HD6 and a single-point variant F2A that does not form higher-order oligomers demonstrates that the self-assembly properties of HD6 are essential for functional activity against C. albicans. This opportunistic fungal pathogen, which resides in the intestine as a member of the gut microbiota in healthy individuals, can turn virulent and cause a variety of diseases ranging from superficial infections to life-threatening systemic infections. Our results indicate that HD6 may allow C. albicans to persist as a harmless commensal in the gastrointestinal tract. Moreover, HD6 and HD6-inspired molecules may provide a foundation for exploring new antimicrobial strategies that attenuate the virulence traits of C. albicans and other microbial pathogens.