Candida albicans is one of the most common fungal pathogens of humans. Currently, there are limitations in the evaluation of C. albicans infection in existing animal models, especially in terms of understanding the influence of specific infectious stages of the fungal pathogen on the host. We show that C. albicans infects, grows and invades tissues in the planarian flatworm Schmidtea mediterranea, and that the planarian responds to infection by activating components of the host innate immune system to clear and repair host tissues. We study different stages of C. albicans infection and demonstrate that planarian stem cells increase division in response to fungal infection, a process that is likely evolutionarily conserved in metazoans. Our results implicate MORN2 and TAK1/p38 signaling pathways as possible mediators of the host innate immune response to fungal infection. We propose the use of planarians as a model system to investigate host-pathogen interactions during fungal infections.
Developmental and Comparative Immunology
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