Human intestinal epithelial cells can internalize luminal fungi via LC3-associated phagocytosis

Sarit Cohen-Kedar*, Efrat Shaham Barda, Keren Masha Rabinowitz, Danielle Keizer, Hanan Abu-Taha, Shoshana Schwartz, Kawsar Kaboub, Liran Baram, Eran Sadot, Ian White, Nir Wasserberg, Meirav Wolff-Bar, Adva Levy-Barda, Iris Dotan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) are the first to encounter luminal microorganisms and actively participate in intestinal immunity. We reported that IECs express the β-glucan receptor Dectin-1, and respond to commensal fungi and β-glucans. In phagocytes, Dectin-1 mediates LC3-associated phagocytosis (LAP) utilizing autophagy components to process extracellular cargo. Dectin-1 can mediate phagocytosis of β-glucan-containing particles by non-phagocytic cells. We aimed to determine whether human IECs phagocytose β-glucan-containing fungal particles via LAP. Methods: Colonic (n=18) and ileal (n=4) organoids from individuals undergoing bowel resection were grown as monolayers. Fluorescent-dye conjugated zymosan (β-glucan particle), heat-killed- and UV inactivated C. albicans were applied to differentiated organoids and to human IEC lines. Confocal microscopy was used for live imaging and immuno-fluorescence. Quantification of phagocytosis was carried out with a fluorescence plate-reader. Results: zymosan and C. albicans particles were phagocytosed by monolayers of human colonic and ileal organoids and IEC lines. LAP was identified by LC3 and Rubicon recruitment to phagosomes and lysosomal processing of internalized particles was demonstrated by co-localization with lysosomal dyes and LAMP2. Phagocytosis was significantly diminished by blockade of Dectin-1, actin polymerization and NAPDH oxidases. Conclusions: Our results show that human IECs sense luminal fungal particles and internalize them via LAP. This novel mechanism of luminal sampling suggests that IECs may contribute to the maintenance of mucosal tolerance towards commensal fungi.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1142492
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
StatePublished - 2023


  • Candida albicans
  • LC3-associated phagocytosis
  • dectin-1
  • intestinal epithelial cells
  • organoids


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