[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Invasive aspergillosis is started after germination of Aspergillus fumigatus conidia that are inhaled by susceptible individuals. Fungal hyphae can grow in the lung through the epithelial tissue and disseminate hematogenously to invade into other organs. Low fungaemia indicates that fungal elements do not reside in the bloodstream for long.
We analyzed whether blood represents a hostile environment to which the physiology of A. fumigatus has to adapt. An in vitro model of A. fumigatus infection was established by incubating mycelium in blood. Our model allowed to discern the changes of the gene expression profile of A. fumigatus at various stages of the infection. The majority of described virulence factors that are connected to pulmonary infections appeared not to be activated during the blood phase. Three active processes were identified that presumably help the fungus to survive the blood environment in an advanced phase of the infection: iron homeostasis, secondary metabolism, and the formation of detoxifying enzymes.
We propose that A. fumigatus is hardly able to propagate in blood. After an early stage of sensing the environment, virtually all uptake mechanisms and energy-consuming metabolic pathways are shut-down. The fungus appears to adapt by trans-differentiation into a resting mycelial stage. This might reflect the harsh conditions in blood where A. fumigatus cannot take up sufficient nutrients to establish self-defense mechanisms combined with significant growth.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background:
Platelets were recently identified as a part of innate immunity. They are activated by contact with Aspergillus fumigatus; putative consequences include antifungal defense but also thrombosis, excessive inflammation, and thrombocytopenia. We aimed to identify those fungal surface structures that mediate interaction with platelets.
Human platelets were incubated with Aspergillus conidia and hyphae, isolated wall components, or fungal surface mutants. Interaction was visualized microscopically; activation was quantified by flow cytometry of specific markers.
The capacity of A. fumigatus conidia to activate platelets is at least partly due to melanin, because this effect can be mimicked with "melanin ghosts"; a mutant lacking melanin showed reduced platelet stimulating potency. In contrast, conidial hydrophobin masks relevant structures, because an A. fumigatus mutant lacking the hydrophobin protein induced stronger platelet activation than wild-type conidia. A. fumigatus hyphae also contain surface structures that interact with platelets. Wall proteins, galactomannan, chitin, and β-glucan are not the relevant hyphal components; instead, the recently identified fungal polysaccharide galactosaminogalactan potently triggered platelet activation.
Conidial melanin and hydrophobin as well as hyphal galactosaminogalactan represent important pathogenicity factors that modulate platelet activity and thus might influence immune responses, inflammation, and thrombosis in infected patients.
The Journal of Infectious Diseases 03/2015; 212(7). DOI:10.1093/infdis/jiv191 · 6.00 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The mould Aspergillus fumigatus is primarily an opportunistic pathogen of immunocompromised patients. Once fungal spores have been inhaled they encounter cells of the innate immune system, which include dendritic cells (DCs). DCs are the key antigen-presenting cells of the immune system and distinct subtypes, which differ in terms of origin, morphology and function.
This study has systematically compared the interactions between A. fumigatus and myeloid DCs (mDCs), plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs) and monocyte-derived DCs (moDCs). Analyses were performed by time-lapse video microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, plating assays, flow cytometry, 25-plex ELISA and transwell assays.
The three subsets of DCs displayed distinct responses to the fungus with mDCs and moDCs showing the greatest similarities. mDCs and moDCs both produced rough convolutions and occasionally phagocytic cups upon exposure to A. fumigatus whereas pDCs maintained a smooth appearance. Both mDCs and moDCs phagocytosed conidia and germ tubes, while pDCs did not phagocytose any fungi. Analysis of cytokine release and maturation markers revealed specific differences in pro- and anti-inflammatory patterns between the different DC subsets.
These distinct characteristics between the DC subsets highlight their differences and suggest specific roles of moDCs, mDCs and pDCs during their interaction with A. fumigatus in vivo.
International Journal of Medical Microbiology 08/2014; 304(8). DOI:10.1016/j.ijmm.2014.08.009 · 3.61 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Site-specific recombination mediates the rearrangement of nucleic acids by the virtue of an recombinase acting on specific recognition sequences. Recombining activities belong either to the tyrosine- or serine-type group, based on the presence of specific residues in the catalytic centre, which can be further subdivided into families due to additional criteria. The most prominent systems are the λ phage integrase acting on att sites; the Cre recombinase from bacteriophage P1 with its loxP attachment sites; the FLP/FTR system of fungal origin, where it is required for 2-μm plasmid replication/amplification in yeast; and the prokaryotic β-recombinase that recombines six sites specifically in cis. Each of these has been exploited in fungal hosts of biotechnological, medical or general relevance, mainly for cloning projects, approaches of gene targeting, genome modification or screening purposes. With their precise and defined mode of action are site-specific recombination systems eminently suited for genetic tasks in fungi, like they are executed in functional studies at high throughput or modern approaches of synthetic biology.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Platelets have been shown to cover a broad range of functions. Besides their role in hemostasis, they have immunological functions and thus participate in the interaction between pathogens and host defense. Platelets have a broad repertoire of receptor molecules that enable them to sense invading pathogens and infection-induced inflammation. Consequently, platelets exert antimicrobial effector mechanisms, but also initiate an intense crosstalk with other arms of the innate and adaptive immunity, including neutrophils, monocytes/macrophages, dendritic cells, B cells and T cells. There is a fragile balance between beneficial antimicrobial effects and detrimental reactions that contribute to the pathogenesis, and many pathogens have developed mechanisms to influence these two outcomes. This review aims to highlight aspects of the interaction strategies between platelets and pathogenic bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, in addition to the subsequent networking between platelets and other immune cells, and the relevance of these processes for the pathogenesis of infections.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Sulphur is an essential element that all pathogens have to absorb from their surroundings in order to grow inside their infected host. Despite its importance, the relevance of sulphur assimilation in fungal virulence is largely unexplored. Here we report a role of the bZIP transcription factor MetR in sulphur assimilation and virulence of the human pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus. The MetR regulator is essential for growth on a variety of sulphur sources; remarkably, it is fundamental for assimilation of inorganic S-sources but dispensable for utilization of methionine. Accordingly, it strongly supports expression of genes directly related to inorganic sulphur assimilation but not of genes connected to methionine metabolism. On a broader scale, MetR orchestrates the comprehensive transcriptional adaptation to sulphur-starving conditions as demonstrated by digital gene expression analysis. Surprisingly, A. fumigatus is able to utilize volatile sulphur compounds produced by its methionine catabolism, a process that has not been described before and that is MetR-dependent. The A. fumigatus MetR transcriptional activator is important for virulence in both leukopenic mice and an alternative mini-host model of aspergillosis, as it was essential for the development of pulmonary aspergillosis and supported the systemic dissemination of the fungus. MetR action under sulphur-starving conditions is further required for proper iron regulation, which links regulation of sulphur metabolism to iron homeostasis and demonstrates an unprecedented regulatory crosstalk. Taken together, this study provides evidence that regulation of sulphur assimilation is not only crucial for A. fumigatus virulence but also affects the balance of iron in this prime opportunistic pathogen.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Conditional gene expression is key for functional studies in any given microorganism. To allow tight regulation in the pathogenic
mold Aspergillus fumigatus, improved versions of the doxycycline-dependent Tet-On system were generated by replacing functional elements of the precursor
module, thereby circumventing the former problem of leakiness due to intramolecular recombination.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Incidence rates of infections caused by environmental opportunistic fungi have risen over recent decades. Aspergillus species have emerged as serious threat for the immunecompromised, and detailed knowledge about virulence-determining traits is crucial for drug target identification. As a prime saprobe, A. fumigatus has evolved to efficiently adapt to various stresses and to sustain nutritional supply by osmotrophy, which is characterized by extracellular substrate digestion followed by efficient uptake of breakdown products that are then fed into the fungal primary metabolism. These intrinsic metabolic features are believed to be related with its virulence ability. The plethora of genes that encode underlying effectors has hampered their in-depth analysis with respect to pathogenesis. Recent developments in Aspergillus molecular biology allow conditional gene expression or comprehensive targeting of gene families to cope with redundancy. Furthermore, identification of essential genes that are intrinsically connected to virulence opens accurate perspectives for novel targets in antifungal therapy.
Frontiers in Microbiology 12/2012; 3:414. DOI:10.3389/fmicb.2012.00414 · 3.99 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Aspergillus fumigatus has two chitin synthases (AfCSMA and AfCSMB) with a myosin motor-like domain (MMD) arranged in a head-to-head configuration. To understand the function of these chitin synthases, single and double csm mutants were constructed and analysed. Although there was a slight reduction in mycelial growth of the mutants, the total chitin synthase activity and the cell wall chitin content were similar in the mycelium of all the mutants and the parental strain. In the conidia, chitin content in the ΔcsmA cell wall was less than half the amount found in the parental strain. In contrast, ΔcsmB and unexpectedly the ΔcsmA/ΔcsmB mutants did not show any modification of the chitin content in their conidial cell-walls. In contrast to the hydrophobic conidia of the parental strain, conidia of all the csm mutants were hydrophilic due to the presence of an amorphous material covering the hydrophobic surface-rodlet layer. The deletion of CSM genes resulted also in an increased susceptibility of resting and germinating conidia to echinocandins. These results show that the deletion of the CSMA and CSMB genes induced a significant disorganisation of the cell wall structure even though they contribute only weakly to the overall cell wall chitin synthesis.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Non-invasive imaging techniques in microbial disease models have delivered valuable insights in the intimate pathogen-host interplay during infection. Here we describe evaluation and validation of a transgenic bioluminescence reporter strain of the human-pathogenic mold Aspergillus fumigatus, one of the main fungal pathogens affecting immunocompromised individuals. Expression and surface display of the Gaussia princeps luciferase allowed sensitive and rapid detection of luminescence emitted from this strain after substrate addition, with photon fluxes strongly correlating to the amounts of fungal conidia or germlings. The reporter strain allowed spatio-temporal monitoring of infection in a cutaneous model of aspergillosis, where neutropenic mice maintained the fungal burden while immunocompetent ones were able to clear it entirely. Most importantly, antifungal therapy could be followed in this type of disease model making use of the bioluminescent A. fumigatus strain. In conclusion, combining sensitivity of the Gaussia luciferase with a surface display expression system in the fungal host allows longitudinal infection studies on cutaneous forms of aspergillosis, providing perspective on drug screening approaches at high-throughput.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Eine Weiterentwicklung bei der genetischen Manipulation des pathogenen Pilzes Aspergillus fumigatus stellt die Einführung wiederverwertbarer Markergene für die mehrfache Genommanipulation zur funktionellen Analyse von Pathogenitätsdeterminanten dar.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Moulds are characterized by their saprophytic lifestyle that is based on osmotrophy. Among them, Aspergillus fumigatus has emerged as the leading cause of fungal infections in the presence of an underlying immunodeficiency. To assess the role of its nutritional versatility for virulence, transcriptional profiling studies in the presence of varying sources of nitrogen were carried out and revealed an extensive reprogramming of the fungal transcriptome when shifting to a proteinaceous growth substrate. Transcripts encoding metabolic activities were predominantly upregulated, as were proteinases and transport activities. To probe whether fundamental aspects of its osmotrophic lifestyle, that is, extracellular proteolysis and uptake of oligopeptides, are required for A. fumigatus pathogenicity, serial gene replacements were carried out, which eventually yielded an octuple deletion mutant ablated for the opt gene family. This strain displayed no growth defect on various substrates, but supplementary reduction of extracellular proteolytic activity by additional deletion of the prtT gene revealed a synthetic phenotype on porcine lung tissue agar. Virulence studies in a murine model of pulmonary aspergillosis did not disclose any attenuation in virulence of these deletants. Our data emphasize a high degree of redundancy encoded by the A. fumigatus genome that secures nutrient supply for growth and, therefore, virulence.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Viral and fungal infections remain a leading cause of mortality in patients after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Adoptive transfer of multipathogen-specific T cells is promising in restoring immunity and thereby preventing and treating infections, but approaches are currently limited because of time-consuming and laborious procedures. Therefore, we investigated a new strategy to simultaneously select T cells specific for viral and fungal pathogens based on activation-dependent expression of CD154. Single- and multipathogen-specific T-cell lines with high specificity for adenovirus (AdV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), Candida albicans, and/or Aspergillus fumigatus could be readily generated within 14 days irrespective of the precursor frequency. The T-cell lines responded reproducibly to endogenously processed antigen and specifically proliferated upon antigenic stimulation. Although isolation based on CD154 favors enrichment of CD4(+) T cells, AdV-, EBV- and CMV-specific CD8(+) T cells could be expanded and demonstrated lysis of target cells. Conversely, T cell-mediated alloreactivity was almost abrogated compared with the starting fraction. This selection and/or expansion strategy may form the basis for future adoptive immunotherapy trials in patients at risk for multiple infections and may be translated to other antigens.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Aspergillus fumigatus as prime pathogen to cause aspergillosis has evolved as a saprophyte, but is also able to infect and colonise immunocompromised hosts. Based on the 'dual use' hypothesis of fungal pathogenicity, general characteristics have to be considered as unspecific virulence determinants, among them stress adaptation capacities. The susceptible, warm-blooded mammalian host represents a specific ecological niche that poses several kinds of stress conditions to the fungus during the course of infection. Detailed knowledge about the cellular pathways and adaptive traits that have evolved in A. fumigatus to counteract situations of stress and varying environmental conditions is crucial for the identification of novel and specific antifungal targets. Comprehensive profiling data accompanied by mutant analyses have shed light on such stressors, and nutritional deprivation, oxidative stress, hypoxia, elevated temperature, alkaline pH, extensive secretion, and, in particular during treatment with antifungals, cell membrane perturbations appear to represent the major hazards A. fumigatus has to cope with during infection. Further efforts employing innovative approaches and advanced technologies will have to be made to expand our knowledge about the scope of the A. fumigatus adaptome that is relevant for disease.
International journal of medical microbiology: IJMM 06/2011; 301(5):408-16. DOI:10.1016/j.ijmm.2011.04.008 · 3.61 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The saprophytic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus is a mold which is ubiquitously present in the environment. It produces large numbers of spores, called conidia that we constantly inhale with the breathing air. Healthy individuals normally do not suffer from true fungal infections with this pathogen. A normally robust resistance against Aspergillus is based on the presence of a very effective immunological defense system in the vertebrate body. Inhaled conidia are first encountered by lung-resident alveolar macrophages and then by neutrophil granulocytes. Both cell types are able to effectively ingest and destroy the fungus. Although some responses of the adaptive immune system develop, the key protection is mediated by innate immunity. The importance of phagocytes for defense against aspergillosis is also supported by large numbers of animal studies. Despite the production of aggressive chemicals that can extracellularly destroy fungal pathogens, the main effector mechanism of the innate immune system is phagocytosis. Very recently, the production of extracellular neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) consisting of nuclear DNA has been added to the armamentarium that innate immune cells use against infection with Aspergillus. Phagocyte responses to Aspergillus are very broad, and a number of new observations have added to this complexity in recent years. To summarize established and newer findings, we will give an overview on current knowledge of the phagocyte system for the protection against Aspergillus.
International journal of medical microbiology: IJMM 06/2011; 301(5):436-44. DOI:10.1016/j.ijmm.2011.04.012 · 3.61 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Zusammenfassung Die Kombination massiv-paralleler long-read-Sequenzierungstechnologie mit short-read-Technologie eröffnet neue Wege in der Identifikation und quantitativen Analyse von mRNA-Transkripten und hilft so beim Verständnis
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: T cell-mediated heterologous immunity to different pathogens is promising for the development of immunotherapeutic strategies. Aspergillus fumigatus and Candida albicans, the 2 most common fungal pathogens causing severe infections in immunocompromised patients, are controlled by CD4+ type 1 helper T (T(H)1) cells in humans and mice, making induction of fungus-specific CD4+ T(H)1 immunity an appealing strategy for antifungal therapy. We identified an immunogenic epitope of the A fumigatus cell wall glucanase Crf1 that can be presented by 3 common major histocompatibility complex class II alleles and that induces memory CD4+ T(H)1 cells with a diverse T-cell receptor repertoire that is cross-reactive to C albicans. In BALB/c mice, the Crf1 protein also elicits cross-protection against lethal infection with C albicans that is mediated by the same epitope as in humans. These data illustrate the existence of T cell-based cross-protection for the 2 distantly related clinically relevant fungal pathogens that may foster the development of immunotherapeutic strategies.