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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Evaluation of adhesion forces of Staphylococcus aureus along the length of Candida albicans hyphae

Ekaterina S Ovchinnikova1, Bastiaan P Krom12, Henk J Busscher1 and Henny C van der Mei1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Groningen and University Medical Center Groningen, Antonius Deusinglaan 1, Groningen, AV, 9713, The Netherlands

2 Present address: Department of Preventive Dentistry (room 12 N51), Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam (ACTA), University of Amsterdam and Free University Amsterdam, Gustav Mahlerlaan 3004, Amsterdam, LA, 1081, The Netherlands

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BMC Microbiology 2012, 12:281  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-12-281

Published: 27 November 2012



Candida albicans is a human fungal pathogen, able to cause both superficial and serious, systemic diseases and is able to switch from yeast cells to long, tube-like hyphae, depending on the prevailing environmental conditions. Both morphological forms of C. albicans are found in infected tissue, often in combination with Staphylococcus aureus. Although bacterial adhesion to the different morphologies of C. albicans has been amply studied, possible differences in staphylococcal adhesion forces along the length of C. albicans hyphae have never been determined. In this study, we aim to verify the hypothesis that the forces mediating S. aureus NCTC8325-4GFP adhesion to hyphae vary along the length of C. albicans SC5314 and MB1 hyphae, as compared with adhesion to yeast cells.


C. albicans hyphae were virtually divided into a “tip” (the growing and therefore youngest part of the hyphae), a “middle” and a so-called “head” region (the yeast cell from which germination started). Adhesion forces between S. aureus NCTC8325-4GFP and the different regions of C. albicans SC5314 hyphae were measured using atomic force microscopy. Strong adhesion forces were found at the tip and middle regions of C. albicans hyphae (−4.1 nN and −4.0 nN, respectively), while much smaller adhesion forces were measured at the head region (−0.3 nN). Adhesion forces exerted by the head region were comparable with the forces arising from budding yeast cells (−0.5 nN). A similar regional dependence of the staphylococcal adhesion forces was found for the clinical isolate involved in this study, C. albicans MB1.


This is the first time that differences in adhesion forces between S. aureus and different regions of C. albicans hyphae have been demonstrated on a quantitative basis, supporting the view that the head region is different from the remainder of the hyphae. Notably it can be concluded that the properties of the hyphal head region are similar to those of budding yeast cells. These novel findings provide new insights in the intricate interkingdom interaction between C. albicans and S. aureus.

Bacteria; Yeast; Interaction; Adhesion forces; AFM