Mycoses are still one of the most problematic illnesses worldwide, especially affecting immunocompromised individuals. The development of novel antifungal drugs is becoming more demanding every day, since existing drugs either have too many side effects or they tend to lose effectiveness due to the resistant fungal strains. In this scenario, Candida albicans is still the main fungal pathogen isolated in hospitals. Pathogenicity results essentially from modifications of the host defense mechanisms that secondarily initiate transformations in the fungal behavior. The pathogenesis of C. albicans is multifactorial and different virulence attributes are important during the various stages of infection. Some virulence factors, like the secreted aspartic proteases (Saps), play a role in several infection stages and the inhibition of one of the many stages may contribute to the containment of the pathogen and thus should help in the treatment of disease. Therefore, Saps are potential targets for the development of novel anti-C. albicans drugs. Herein, we review the beneficial properties of pepstatin A and aspartic-type protease inhibitors used in the anti-human immunodeficiency virus chemotherapy on C. albicans, with particular emphasis in the effects on Sap activity, proliferation, morphogenesis (yeasts into mycelia transformation), ultrastructural architecture, adhesion to mammalian cells and abiotic materials, modulation of unrelated virulence factors (e.g., surface glycoconjugates, lipases and sterol), experimental candidiasis infection as well as synergistic properties when conjugated with classical antifungals. Collectively, these positive findings have stimulated the search for novel natural and/or synthetic pharmacological compounds with anti-aspartic protease properties against the human opportunistic fungus C. albicans.
Keywords: Alternative chemotherapy, Antifungal compounds, Aspartic protease inhibitors, Candida albicans, Fungal biology, Opportunistic infections, Pathogenesis, Secreted aspartic proteases, Virulence