Experimental evolution of a fungal pathogen into a gut symbiont

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Abstract

Gut microbes live in symbiosis with their hosts, but how mutualistic animal-microbe interactions emerge is not understood. By adaptively evolving the opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans in the mouse gastrointestinal tract, we selected strains that not only had lost their main virulence program but also protected their new hosts against a variety of systemic infections. This protection was independent of adaptive immunity, arose as early as a single day postpriming, was dependent on increased innate cytokine responses, and was thus reminiscent of “trained immunity.” Because both the microbe and its new host gain some advantages from their interaction, this experimental system might allow direct study of the evolutionary forces that govern the emergence of mutualism between a mammal and a fungus.

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