Investigation of the fungal communities in animal models of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) showed a controversial role of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Candida spp. In health and disease. These conflicting observations could be ascribed to immunogenic differences among co-specific strains. To assess the relevance of intra-strains differences on yeast immunogenicity and impact on the microbiota, we screened S. cerevisiae and Candida spp. Strains isolated from fecal samples of IBD patients. We compared the cytokine profiles, obtained upon stimulation of Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells (PBMCs) and Dendritic Cells with different yeast strains, and evaluated the relationship between strain's cell wall sugar amount and immune response. Moreover, the gut microbiota composition was explored in relation to fungal isolation from fecal samples by metabarcoding analysis. The comparison of cytokine profiles showed strain dependent rather than species-dependent differences in immune responses. Differences in immunogenicity correlated with the cell wall composition of S. cerevisiae intestinal strains. Stimulation of human healthy PBMCs with different strains showed a pro-inflammatory IL-6 response counterbalanced by IL-10 production. Interestingly, Crohn's (CD) patients responded differently to “self” and “non-self” strains, eliciting pure Th1 or Th17 cytokine patterns. The differences observed in vitro were recapitulated in vivo, where different strains contributed in dramatically different ways to local epithelial activity and to the inflammation of wild type and Interleukin-deficient mice. Furthermore, we observed that the gut microbiota profiles significantly differentiated according to the presence of Saccharomyces or Candida spp. or the absence of fungal isolates in fecal samples. Our results show the importance to deepen metagenomics and immunophenotyping analyses to the strain level, to elucidate the role of fungal and bacterial communities in health and disease.
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