species cause serious infections requiring prolonged and sometimes toxic therapy. Antimicrobial proteins, such as chemokines, hold great interest as potential additions to the small number of available antifungal drugs. Metamorphic proteins reversibly switch between multiple different folded structures. XCL1 is a metamorphic, antimicrobial chemokine that interconverts between the conserved chemokine fold (an α–β monomer) and an alternate fold (an all-β dimer). Previous work has shown that human XCL1 kills C. albicans
but has not assessed whether one or both XCL1 folds perform this activity. Here, we use structurally locked engineered XCL1 variants and Candida
killing assays, adenylate kinase release assays, and propidium iodide uptake assays to demonstrate that both XCL1 folds kill Candida
, but they do so via different mechanisms. Our results suggest that the alternate fold kills via membrane disruption, consistent with previous work, and the chemokine fold does not. XCL1 fold-switching thus provides a mechanism to regulate the XCL1 mode of antifungal killing, which could protect surrounding tissue from damage associated with fungal membrane disruption and could allow XCL1 to overcome candidal resistance by switching folds. This work provides inspiration for the future design of switchable, multifunctional antifungal therapeutics.
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