Interactions Between Commensal Fungi and the C-Type Lectin Receptor Dectin-1 Influence Colitis

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Science  08 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6086, pp. 1314-1317
DOI: 10.1126/science.1221789

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The Mycobiome

In the past few years, much attention has been given to the trillions of bacterial inhabitants in our guts and the myriad of ways in which they influence our overall health. But what about fungi? Iliev et al. (p. 1314) now report that mice and humans, along with several other mammals, contain a resident intestinal population of fungi. Deletion of Dectin-1, which acts as a major innate immune sensor for fungi, led to enhanced susceptibility and worse pathology in a chemically induced model of colitis in mice. A polymorphism in the gene that encodes Dectin-1 has been observed in patients with ulcerative colitis, which hints that, besides the traditional bacterial microbiome, alterations in the “mycobiome” may also play a role in health and disease.


The intestinal microflora, typically equated with bacteria, influences diseases such as obesity and inflammatory bowel disease. Here, we show that the mammalian gut contains a rich fungal community that interacts with the immune system through the innate immune receptor Dectin-1. Mice lacking Dectin-1 exhibited increased susceptibility to chemically induced colitis, which was the result of altered responses to indigenous fungi. In humans, we identified a polymorphism in the gene for Dectin-1 (CLEC7A) that is strongly linked to a severe form of ulcerative colitis. Together, our findings reveal a eukaryotic fungal community in the gut (the “mycobiome”) that coexists with bacteria and substantially expands the repertoire of organisms interacting with the intestinal immune system to influence health and disease.

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