Identification and mechanism of action of the plant defensin NaD1 as a new member of the antifungal drug arsenal against Candida albicans

Brigitte M E Hayes, Mark R Bleackley, Jennifer L Wiltshire, Marilyn A Anderson, Ana Traven, Nicole van der Weerden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)


In recent decades, pathogenic fungi have become a serious threat to human health, leading to major efforts aimed at characterizing new agents for improved treatments. Promising in this context are antimicrobial peptides produced by animals and plants as part of innate immune systems. Here, we describe an antifungal defensin, NaD1, with activity against the major human pathogen Candida albicans, characterize the mechanism of killing, and identify protection strategies used by the fungus to survive defensin treatment. The mechanism involves interaction between NaD1 and the fungal cell surface followed by membrane permeabilization, entry into the cytoplasm, hyperproduction of reactive oxygen species, and killing induced by oxidative damage. By screening C. albicans mutant libraries, we identified that the high-osmolarity glycerol (HOG) pathway has a unique role in protection against NaD1, while several other stress-responsive pathways are dispensable. The involvement of the HOG pathway is consistent with induction of oxidative stress by NaD1. The HOG pathway has been reported to have a major role in protection of fungi against osmotic stress, but our data indicate that osmotic stress does not contribute significantly to the adverse effects of NaD1 on C. albicans. Our data, together with previous studies with human beta-defensins and salivary histatin 5, indicate that inhibition of the HOG pathway holds promise as a broad strategy for increasing the activity of antimicrobial peptides against C. albicans.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3667 - 3675
Number of pages9
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Cite this