Nat Microbiol. 2021 Mar 22. doi: 10.1038/s41564-021-00875-2. Online ahead of print.
Vaginal candidiasis is an extremely common disease predominantly caused by four phylogenetically diverse species: Candida albicans; Candida glabrata; Candida parapsilosis; and Candida tropicalis. Using a time course infection model of vaginal epithelial cells and dual RNA sequencing, we show that these species exhibit distinct pathogenicity patterns, which are defined by highly species-specific transcriptional profiles during infection of vaginal epithelial cells. In contrast, host cells exhibit a homogeneous response to all species at the early stages of infection, which is characterized by sublethal mitochondrial signalling inducing a protective type I interferon response. At the later stages, the transcriptional response of the host diverges in a species-dependent manner. This divergence is primarily driven by the extent of epithelial damage elicited by species-specific mechanisms, such as secretion of the toxin candidalysin by C. albicans. Our results uncover a dynamic, biphasic response of vaginal epithelial cells to Candida species, which is characterized by protective mitochondria-associated type I interferon signalling and a species-specific damage-driven response.