[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The TaqMan real-time PCR assay was developed from the Blastomyces dermatitidis BAD1 gene promoter. The assay identified all haplotypes of B. dermatitidis and five of six positive paraffin-embedded tissues. The assay sensitivity threshold was 1 pg genomic DNA of the mold form and 2 CFU of the yeast form of B. dermatitidis. No cross-reactivity was observed against other fungal DNA. The assay allowed rapid (5-h) identification of B. dermatitidis from culture and from clinical specimens.
Journal of clinical microbiology 03/2012; 50(5):1783-6. · 4.16 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cryptococcus gattii infections in southern California have been reported in patients with HIV/AIDS. In this study, we examined the molecular epidemiology, population structure, and virulence attributes of isolates collected from HIV/AIDS patients in Los Angeles County, California. We show that these isolates consist almost exclusively of VGIII molecular type, in contrast to the VGII molecular type isolates causing the North American Pacific Northwest outbreak. The global VGIII population structure can be divided into two molecular groups, VGIIIa and VGIIIb. Isolates from the Californian patients are virulent in murine and macrophage models of infection, with VGIIIa significantly more virulent than VGIIIb. Several VGIII isolates are highly fertile and produce abundant sexual spores that may serve as infectious propagules. The a and α VGIII MAT locus alleles are largely syntenic with limited rearrangements compared to the known VGI (a/α) and VGII (α) MAT loci, but each has unique characteristics including a distinct deletion flanking the 5' VGIII MATa alleles and the α allele is more heterogeneous than the a allele. Our studies indicate that C. gattii VGIII is endemic in southern California, with other isolates originating from the neighboring regions of Mexico, and in rarer cases from Oregon and Washington state. Given that >1,000,000 cases of cryptococcal infection and >620,000 attributable mortalities occur annually in the context of the global AIDS pandemic, our findings suggest a significant burden of C. gattii may be unrecognized, with potential prognostic and therapeutic implications. These results signify the need to classify pathogenic Cryptococcus cases and highlight possible host differences among the C. gattii molecular types influencing infection of immunocompetent (VGI/VGII) vs. immunocompromised (VGIII/VGIV) hosts.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cryptococcus gattii and Cryptococcus neoformans are causal agents of cryptococcosis, which manifests as pneumonia and meningitis. C. gattii has recently received widespread attention owing to outbreaks in British Columbia, Canada and the US Pacific Northwest. The biology of this tree-dwelling yeast is relatively unexplored, and there are few clues about how it causes infections in humans and animals. In this review, we summarize recent discoveries about C. gattii genetics and its ecological niche and highlight areas ripe for future exploration. Increased focus on epidemiology, ecological modeling and host-pathogen interactions is expected to yield a better understanding of this enigmatic yeast, and ultimately lead to better measures for its control.
Trends in Microbiology 08/2011; 19(11):564-71. · 8.43 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The dispersal mechanism of Geomyces destructans, which causes geomycosis (white nose syndrome) in hibernating bats, remains unknown. Multiple gene genealogic analyses were conducted on 16 fungal isolates from diverse sites in New York State during 2008-2010. The results are consistent with the clonal dispersal of a single G. destructans genotype.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Geomyces destructans is the etiologic agent of bat geomycosis, commonly referred to as white nose syndrome (WNS). This infection has caused severe morbidity and mortality in little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) and has also spread to other bat species with significant decline in the populations. Currently, G. destructans infection is identified by culture, ITS-PCR, and histopathology. We hypothesized that a real-time PCR assay would considerably improve detection of G. destructans in bats. The 100 bp sequence of the Alpha-L-Rhamnosidase gene was validated as a target for real-time PCR. The assay sensitivity was determined from serial dilution of DNA extracted from G. destructans conidia (5 × 10(-1)-5 × 10(7)), and the specificity was tested using DNA from 30 closely and distantly related fungi and 5 common bacterial pathogens. The real-time PCR assay was highly sensitive with detection limit of two G. destructans conidia per reaction at 40 PCR cycles. The assay was also highly specific as none of the other fungal or bacterial DNA cross-reacted in the real-time PCR assay. One hundred and forty-seven bat tissue samples, suspected of infection with G. destructans, were used to compare the real-time PCR assay to other methods employed for the detection of G. destructans. Real-time PCR was highly sensitive with 80 of 147 (55%) samples testing positive for G. destructans DNA. In comparison, histopathology examination revealed 64/147 (44%) positive samples. The internal transcribed spacer (ITS)-PCR yielded positive amplicon for G. destructans from 37 tissue samples (25%). The least sensitive assay was the fungal culture with only 17 tissue samples (12%) yielding G. destructans in culture. The data suggested that the real-time PCR assay is highly promising for rapid, sensitive, and specific identification of G. destructans. Further trials and inter-laboratory comparisons of this novel assay are recommended to improve the diagnosis of bat geomycosis.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Bats in the northeastern U.S. are affected by geomycosis caused by the fungus Geomyces destructans (Gd). This infection is commonly referred to as White Nose Syndrome (WNS). Over a million hibernating bats have died since the fungus was first discovered in 2006 in a cave near Albany, New York. A population viability analysis conducted on little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), one of six bat species infected with Gd, suggests regional extinction of this species within 20 years. The fungus Gd is a psychrophile ("cold loving"), but nothing is known about how it thrives at low temperatures and what pathogenic attributes allow it to infect bats. This study aimed to determine if currently available antifungal drugs and biocides are effective against Gd. We tested five Gd strains for their susceptibility to antifungal drugs and high-throughput screened (HTS) one representative strain with SpectrumPlus compound library containing 1,920 compounds. The results indicated that Gd is susceptible to a number of antifungal drugs at concentrations similar to the susceptibility range of human pathogenic fungi. Strains of Gd were susceptible to amphotericin B, fluconazole, itraconazole, ketoconazole and voriconazole. In contrast, very high MICs (minimum inhibitory concentrations) of flucytosine and echinocandins were needed for growth inhibition, which were suggestive of fungal resistance to these drugs. Of the 1,920 compounds in the library, a few caused 50%--to greater than 90% inhibition of Gd growth. A number of azole antifungals, a fungicide, and some biocides caused prominent growth inhibition. Our results could provide a theoretical basis for future strategies aimed at the rehabilitation of most affected bat species and for decontamination of Gd in the cave environment.
PLoS ONE 01/2011; 6(3):e17032. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cryptococcus gattii, an emerging fungal pathogen of humans and animals, is found on a variety of trees in tropical and temperate regions. The ecological niche and virulence of this yeast remain poorly defined. We used Arabidopsis thaliana plants and plant-derived substrates to model C. gattii in its natural habitat. Yeast cells readily colonized scratch-wounded plant leaves and formed distinctive extracellular fibrils (40-100 nm diameter x500-3000 nm length). Extracellular fibrils were observed on live plants and plant-derived substrates by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and by high voltage- EM (HVEM). Only encapsulated yeast cells formed extracellular fibrils as a capsule-deficient C. gattii mutant completely lacked fibrils. Cells deficient in environmental sensing only formed disorganized extracellular fibrils as apparent from experiments with a C. gattii STE12alpha mutant. C. gattii cells with extracellular fibrils were more virulent in murine model of pulmonary and systemic cryptococcosis than cells lacking fibrils. C. gattii cells with extracellular fibrils were also significantly more resistant to killing by human polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMN) in vitro even though these PMN produced elaborate neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs). These observations suggest that extracellular fibril formation could be a structural adaptation of C. gattii for cell-to-cell, cell-to-substrate and/or cell-to- phagocyte communications. Such ecological adaptation of C. gattii could play roles in enhanced virulence in mammalian hosts at least initially via inhibition of host PMN- mediated killing.
PLoS ONE 01/2010; 5(6):e10978. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Massive die-offs of little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) have been occurring since 2006 in hibernation sites around Albany, New York, and this problem has spread to other States in the Northeastern United States. White cottony fungal growth is seen on the snouts of affected animals, a prominent sign of White Nose Syndrome (WNS). A previous report described the involvement of the fungus Geomyces destructans in WNS, but an identical fungus was recently isolated in France from a bat that was evidently healthy. The fungus has been recovered sparsely despite plentiful availability of afflicted animals.
We have investigated 100 bat and environmental samples from eight affected sites in 2008. Our findings provide strong evidence for an etiologic role of G. destructans in bat WNS. (i) Direct smears from bat snouts, Periodic Acid Schiff-stained tissue sections from infected tissues, and scanning electron micrographs of bat tissues all showed fungal structures similar to those of G. destructans. (ii) G. destructans DNA was directly amplified from infected bat tissues, (iii) Isolations of G. destructans in cultures from infected bat tissues showed 100% DNA match with the fungus present in positive tissue samples. (iv) RAPD patterns for all G. destructans cultures isolated from two sites were indistinguishable. (v) The fungal isolates showed psychrophilic growth. (vi) We identified in vitro proteolytic activities suggestive of known fungal pathogenic traits in G. destructans.
Further studies are needed to understand whether G. destructans WNS is a symptom or a trigger for bat mass mortality. The availability of well-characterized G. destructans strains should promote an understanding of bat-fungus relationships, and should aid in the screening of biological and chemical control agents.
PLoS ONE 01/2010; 5(5):e10783. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Rhizomucor variabilis and Hormographiella aspergillata rarely cause human infections. This report details a fatal case of a 14-year-old female with leukemia posthematopoietic cell transplant and relapse with refractory pancytopenia. The patient first developed an R. variabilis var. regularior palate infection and later developed a cutaneous H. aspergillata infection while on posaconazole and caspofungin therapy.
Journal of clinical microbiology 10/2009; 47(12):4176-9. · 4.16 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To characterize Fusarium isolates from recent cases of fungal keratitis in contact lens wearers, and to investigate fungal association with MoistureLoc solution.
We studied six fungal isolates from recent cases of keratitis in New York State. The isolates were characterized by nucleotide sequencing and phylogenetic analyses of multiple genes, and then typed using minisatellite and microsatellite probes. Experimental fungal biofilm formation was tested by standard methods. MoistureLoc solutions were tested in biofouling studies for their efficacy in elimination of Fusarium contamination.
Fusarium solani--corneal ulcers (2 isolates), lens case (1 isolate), and F. oxysporum--corneal ulcer (1 isolate), eye (1 isolate), were recovered from five patients. An opened bottle of MoistureLoc solution provided by a patient also yielded F. solani. Two distinct genotypes of F. solani as well as of F. oxysporum were present in the isolated strains. Remarkably, F. solani strains from the lens case and lens solution in one instance were similar, based on phylogenetic analyses and molecular typing. The solution isolate of F. solani formed biofilm on contact lenses in control conditions, but not when co-incubated with MoistureLoc solution. Both freshly opened and 3-month old MoistureLoc solutions effectively killed F. solani and F. oxysporum, when fungal contamination was simulated under recommended lens treatment regimen (4-hr). However, simulation of inappropriate use (15-60 min) led to the recovery of less than 1% of original inoculum of F. solani or F. oxysporum.
Temporary survival of F. solani and F. oxysporum in MoistureLoc suggested that improper lens cleaning regimen could be a possible contributing factor in recent infections.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cryptococcus gattii (Cg) is an emerging pathogen of both healthy and immunocompromised patients worldwide. Understanding the molecular genetic basis of virulence and physiology of this pathogen will be critical for defining its pathogenic mechanisms. The purine biosynthetic gene, URA5 encoding orate phosphorybosyltransferase (OPRTase), has been successfully used as a selectable marker for gene disruption by transformation and homologous recombination in Cg. Here, we report the characterization of ura5 auxotrophy and URA5 reversion phenomenon at the molecular, genetic, and structural levels, and use of ura5-->URA5 reversion as a tool for reconstitution of gene of interest and auxotrophic marker to their native loci. We identified a single mutation of GG(128)T-->GAT with substitution of glycine to aspartic acid at amino acid position 43 resulting in ura5 auxotrophy. The ura5-->URA5 reversion on CSM lacking uracil (CSM-U) was found to be a rare phenomenon with a reversion frequency of 0.000002%, and sequence analysis of URA5 from all the reverted strains revealed mutation of GA(128)T-->GGT back to its ancestral state. The URA5 allele in the reverted strains was fully functional, as demonstrated by the excellent growth of these strains on medium lacking uracil, as well as by the ability of this allele to efficiently transform ura5 mutant to restore prototrophy. The deduced Cg URA5 protein modeled on the known crystal structures of OPRTase from Salmonella typhimurium (1LH0_A, 1STO) and from Escherichia coli (1ORO_A) indicated that the glycine 43 of Cg URA5 was situated on a conserved loop, and it's substitution to more globose aspartic acid may have resulted in URA5 inactivation in auxotrophic strain. The advantages of this approach for the generation of a reconstituted strain are (1) that it restores the functionality of the native URA5, (2) that it eliminates an additional biolistic delivery of exogenous URA5, and (3) that it allows easy selection of reconstituted strains with homologous integration. This strategy was successfully used for the generation of Cg can2+CAN2/URA5 homologous reconstituted strains, which grew in ambient air to the wild-type level while can2 mutant exhibited severe growth defect under similar conditions.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cryptococcus gattii is a primary pathogenic yeast, increasingly important in public health, but factors responsible for its host predilection and geographical distribution remain largely unknown. We have characterized C. gattii STE12alpha to probe its role in biology and pathogenesis because this transcription factor has been linked to virulence in many human and plant pathogenic fungi. A full-length STE12alpha gene was cloned by colony hybridization and sequenced using primer walk and 3' rapid amplification of cDNA ends strategies, and a ste12alpha delta gene knockout mutant was created by URA5 insertion at the homologous site. A semiquantitative analysis revealed delayed and poor mating in ste12alpha delta mutant; this defect was not reversed by exogenous cyclic AMP. C. gattii parent and mutant strains showed robust haploid fruiting. Among putative virulence factors tested, the laccase transcript and enzymatic activity were down regulated in the ste12alpha delta mutant, with diminished production of melanin. However, capsule, superoxide dismutase, phospholipase, and urease were unaffected. Similarly, Ste12 deficiency did not cause any auxotrophy, assimilation defects, or sensitivity to a large panel of chemicals and antifungals. The ste12alpha delta mutant was markedly attenuated in virulence in both BALB/c and A/Jcr mice models of meningoencephalitis, and it also exhibited significant in vivo growth reduction and was highly susceptible to in vitro killing by human neutrophils (polymorphonuclear leukocytes). In tests designed to simulate the C. gattii natural habitat, the ste12alpha delta mutant was poorly pigmented on wood agar prepared from two tree species and showed poor survival and multiplication in wood blocks. Thus, STE12alpha plays distinct roles in C. gattii morphogenesis, virulence, and ecological fitness.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cryptococcus isolates from AIDS patients in southern California were characterized by molecular analyses. Pheromone MFalpha1 and MFa1 gene fragments were polymerase chain reaction-amplified with fluorescently labeled primers and analyzed by capillary electrophoresis (CE) on DNA analyzer. CE-fragment-length analyses (CE-FLAs) and CE-single-strand conformation polymorphisms (CE-SSCPs) were used to determine Cryptococcus gattii (Cg), C. neoformans (Cn) varieties neoformans (CnVN) and grubii (CnVG), mating types, and hybrids. Corroborative tests carried out in parallel included growth on specialized media and serotyping with a commercial kit. All 276 clinical strains tested as haploid MATalpha by CE-FLA. CE-SSCP analyses of MFalpha1 showed 219 (79.3%) CnVG, 23 (8.3%) CnVN, and 34 (12.3%) Cg isolates. CE-FLA and CE-SSCP are promising tools for high-throughput screening of Cryptococcus isolates. The high prevalence of Cg was noteworthy, in view of its sporadic reports from AIDS patients in North America and its recent emergence as a primary pathogen on Vancouver Island, Canada.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Encapsulated yeast, Cryptococcus gattii (Cg) is a primary and emerging fungal pathogen in North America. It has a predilection for invading the central nervous system of both healthy and immunocompromised humans and animals. Recently, we initiated molecular pathogenesis studies in Cg strain NIH444 (ATCC 32609). In this report, we compared the biology and pathogenic potential of NIH444 to those of WM276, an Australian environmental isolate that is being used for the whole genome-sequencing project. Our data indicated that NIH444 is comparatively more virulent in a mouse model of cryptococcosis than is WM 276. We found robust mating of NIH444, and no mating of WM276, when tested against Cg MATa strain, NIH198. WM276 but not NIH444 was defective in filamentation and sporulation (haploid fruiting). Interestingly, NIH444 has a VGII/AFLP6 genotype similar to that of the genotype of the recent outbreak strains from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Additionally, comparisons of nucleotide sequences of various genes also showed differences between NIH444 and WM276. Based on these observations, we conclude that NIH444 should remain the strain of choice for understanding Cg pathogenesis, especially on the North American continent.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We studied superoxide dismutases (SODs) in the encapsulated yeast Cryptococcus neoformans (Cn) variety gattii to analyse the role of mitochondrial MnSOD (SOD2) in fungal biology and virulence. SOD2 was cloned from a Cn cosmid library, sod2 mutant and sod2 + SOD2 reconstituted strains were constructed by homologous recombination, and two sod1sod2 double mutants were constructed by replacing SOD2 in the sod1 mutant with the sod2::HYG allele. The SOD2 protein (SOD2p) encoded 225 amino acids, with 36-66% identity with other fungal SOD2ps. SOD2 deletion rendered Cn highly growth-defective at 37 degrees C in 19-20% oxygen (normal air), and this defect was reversed by limiting oxygen to 1.3% as well in the presence of antioxidant, ascorbic acid. The sod2 mutant accumulated significantly more reactive oxygen species (ROS) at 37 degrees C as well at 30 degrees C in the presence of antimycin A, suggesting that SOD2p is the primary defence of Cn against the superoxide anion (O(2) (.-)) in the mitochondria. The sod2 was also highly susceptible to redox-cycling agents, high salt and nutrient limitations. The sod2 mutant was avirulent in intranasally infected mice and markedly attenuated in its virulence in intravenously infected mice. The virulence defect of sod2 mutant appeared related to its growth defects in high oxygen environment, but not resulting from increased sensitivity to oxidative killing by phagocytes. The sod1sod2 double mutants were avirulent in mice. Additionally, sod1sod2 double mutants showed a marked reduction in the activities of other known Cn virulence factors; and they were more susceptible to PMN killing than was the sod2 single mutant. Previously, we reported that the attenuation of sod1 mutant in mice was resulting from enhanced susceptibility to phagocyte killing, combined with a reduction in the activities of a number of virulence factors. Thus, SOD1p and SOD2p play distinct roles in the biology and virulence of Cn var. gattii via independent modes of action.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The pathogenic yeast Cryptococcus neoformans (Cn) var. gattii causes meningoencephalitis in healthy individuals, unlike the better known Cn varieties grubii and neoformans, which are common in immunocompromised individuals. The virulence determinants and mechanisms of host predilection are poorly defined for var. gattii. The present study focused on the characterization of a Cu,Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1) gene knock-out mutant constructed by developing a DNA transformation system. The sod1 mutant was highly sensitive to the redox cycling agent menadione, and showed fragmentation of the large vacuole in the cytoplasm, but no other defects were seen in growth, capsule synthesis, mating, sporulation, stationary phase survival or auxotrophies for sulphur-containing amino acids. The sod1 mutant was markedly attenuated in virulence in a mouse model, and it was significantly susceptible to in vitro killing by human neutrophils (PMNs). The deletion of SOD1 also resulted in defects in the expression of a number of virulence factors, i.e. laccase, urease and phospholipase. Complementation of the sod1 mutant with SOD1 resulted in recovery of virulence factor expression and menadione resistance, and in restoration of virulence. Overall, these results suggest that the antioxidant function of Cu,Zn SOD is critical for the pathogenesis of the fungus, but is dispensable in its saprobic life. This report constitutes the first instance in which superoxide dismutase has been directly implicated in the virulence of a fungal pathogen.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The sexual mating of the pathogenic yeast Cryptococcus neoformans is important for pathogenesis studies because the fungal virulence is linked to the alpha mating type (MAT(alpha)). We characterized C. neoformans mating pheromones (MF(alpha) 1 and MFa1) from 122 strains to understand intervariety hybridization or mating and intervariety virulence. MF(alpha) 1 in three C. neoformans varieties showed (a) specific nucleotide polymorphisms, (b) different copy numbers and chromosomal localizations, and (c) unique deduced amino acids in two geographic populations of C. neoformans var. gattii. MF(alpha) 1 of different varieties cross-hybridized in Southern hybridizations. Their phylogenetic analyses showed purifying selection (neutral evolution). These observations suggested that MAT(alpha) strains from any of the three C. neoformans varieties could mate or hybridize in nature with MATa strains of C. neoformans var. neoformans. A few serotype A/D diploid strains provided evidence for mating or hybridization, while a majority of A/D strains tested positive for haploid MF(alpha) 1 identical to that of C. neoformans var. grubii. MF(alpha) 1 sequence and copy numbers in diploids were identical to those of C. neoformans var. grubii, while their MFa1 sequences were identical to those of C. neoformans var. neoformans; thus, these strains were hybrids. The mice survival curves and histological lesions revealed A/D diploids to be highly pathogenic, with pathogenicity levels similar to that of the C. neoformans var. grubii type strain and unlike the low pathogenicity levels of C. neoformans var. neoformans strains. In contrast to MF(alpha) 1 in three varieties, MFa1 amplicons and hybridization signals could be obtained only from two C. neoformans var. neoformans reference strains and eight A/D diploids. This suggested that a yet undiscovered MFa pheromone(s) in C. neoformans var. gattii and C. neoformans var. grubii is unrelated to, highly divergent from, or rarer than that in C. neoformans var. neoformans. These observations could form the basis for future studies on the role of intervariety mating in C. neoformans biology and virulence.
Infection and Immunity 10/2002; 70(9):5225-35. · 4.07 Impact Factor