Abstract (Expand)

Candida albicans is a leading cause of life-threatening hospital-acquired infections and can lead to Candidemia with sepsis-like symptoms and high mortality rates. We reconstructed a genome-scale C. albicans metabolic model to investigate bacterial-fungal metabolic interactions in the gut as determinants of fungal abundance. We optimized the predictive capacity of our model using wild type and mutant C. albicans growth data and used it for in silico metabolic interaction predictions. Our analysis of more than 900 paired fungal-bacterial metabolic models predicted key gut bacterial species modulating C. albicans colonization levels. Among the studied microbes, Alistipes putredinis was predicted to negatively affect C. albicans levels. We confirmed these findings by metagenomic sequencing of stool samples from 24 human subjects and by fungal growth experiments in bacterial spent media. Furthermore, our pairwise simulations guided us to specific metabolites with promoting or inhibitory effect to the fungus when exposed in defined media under carbon and nitrogen limitation. Our study demonstrates that in silico metabolic prediction can lead to the identification of gut microbiome features that can significantly affect potentially harmful levels of C. albicans.

Authors: Mohammad Mirhakkak, Sascha Schäuble, Tilman Klassert, S. Brunke, Philipp Brandt, D. Loos, R. V. Uribe, F. Senne de Oliveira Lino, Y. Ni, Slavena Vylkova, Hortense Slevogt, Bernhard Hube, Esther Weiß, M. O. A. Sommer, Gianni Panagiotou

Date Published: 15th Dec 2020

Journal: ISME J

Abstract (Expand)

Phagosomes must maintain membrane integrity to exert their microbicidal function. Some microorganisms, however, survive and grow within phagosomes. In such instances, phagosomes must expand to avoid rupture and microbial escape. We studied whether phagosomes regulate their size to preserve integrity during infection with the fungal pathogen Candida albicans. Phagosomes release calcium as C. albicans hyphae elongate, inducing lysosome recruitment and insertion, thereby increasing the phagosomal surface area. As hyphae grow, the expanding phagosome consumes the majority of free lysosomes. Simultaneously, lysosome biosynthesis is stimulated by activation of TFEB, a transcriptional regulator of lysosomal biogenesis. Preventing lysosomal insertion causes phagosomal rupture, NLRP3 inflammasome activation, IL-1beta secretion and host-cell death. Whole-genome transcriptomic analysis demonstrate that stress responses elicited in C. albicans upon engulfment are reversed if phagosome expansion is prevented. Our findings reveal a mechanism whereby phagosomes maintain integrity while expanding, ensuring that growing pathogens remain entrapped within this microbicidal compartment.

Authors: J. Westman, G. F. W. Walpole, Lydia Kasper, B. Y. Xue, O. Elshafee, Bernhard Hube, S. Grinstein

Date Published: 9th Dec 2020

Journal: Cell Host Microbe

Abstract (Expand)

Candida albicans is a major fungal pathogen of humans. It exists as a commensal in the oral cavity, gut or genital tract of most individuals, constrained by the local microbiota, epithelial barriers and immune defences. Their perturbation can lead to fungal outgrowth and the development of mucosal infections such as oropharyngeal or vulvovaginal candidiasis, and patients with compromised immunity are susceptible to life-threatening systemic infections. The importance of the interplay between fungus, host and microbiota in driving the transition from C. albicans commensalism to pathogenicity is widely appreciated. However, the complexity of these interactions, and the significant impact of fungal, host and microbiota variability upon disease severity and outcome, are less well understood. Therefore, we summarise the features of the fungus that promote infection, and how genetic variation between clinical isolates influences pathogenicity. We discuss antifungal immunity, how this differs between mucosae, and how individual variation influences a person's susceptibility to infection. Also, we describe factors that influence the composition of gut, oral and vaginal microbiotas, and how these affect fungal colonisation and antifungal immunity. We argue that a detailed understanding of these variables, which underlie fungal-host-microbiota interactions, will present opportunities for directed antifungal therapies that benefit vulnerable patients.

Authors: C. d'Enfert, A. K. Kaune, L. R. Alaban, S. Chakraborty, N. Cole, M. Delavy, D. Kosmala, B. Marsaux, R. Frois-Martins, M. Morelli, D. Rosati, M. Valentine, Z. Xie, Y. Emritloll, P. A. Warn, F. Bequet, M. E. Bougnoux, S. Bornes, Mark Gresnigt, Bernhard Hube, Ilse Jacobsen, M. Legrand, S. Leibundgut-Landmann, C. Manichanh, C. A. Munro, M. G. Netea, K. Queiroz, K. Roget, V. Thomas, C. Thoral, P. Van den Abbeele, A. W. Walker, A. J. P. Brown

Date Published: 24th Nov 2020

Journal: FEMS Microbiol Rev

Abstract (Expand)

Only four species, Candida albicans, C. glabrata, C. parapsilosis, and C. tropicalis, together account for about 90% of all Candida bloodstream infections and are among the most common causes of invasive fungal infections of humans. However, virulence potential varies among these species, and the phylogenetic tree reveals that their pathogenicity may have emerged several times independently during evolution. We therefore tested these four species in a human whole-blood infection model to determine, via comprehensive dual-species RNA-sequencing analyses, which fungal infection strategies are conserved and which are recent evolutionary developments. The ex vivo infection progressed from initial immune cell interactions to nearly complete killing of all fungal cells. During the course of infection, we characterized important parameters of pathogen-host interactions, such as fungal survival, types of interacting immune cells, and cytokine release. On the transcriptional level, we obtained a predominantly uniform and species-independent human response governed by a strong upregulation of proinflammatory processes, which was downregulated at later time points after most of the fungal cells were killed. In stark contrast, we observed that the different fungal species pursued predominantly individual strategies and showed significantly different global transcriptome patterns. Among other findings, our functional analyses revealed that the fungal species relied on different metabolic pathways and virulence factors to survive the host-imposed stress. These data show that adaptation of Candida species as a response to the host is not a phylogenetic trait, but rather has likely evolved independently as a prerequisite to cause human infections.IMPORTANCE To ensure their survival, pathogens have to adapt immediately to new environments in their hosts, for example, during the transition from the gut to the bloodstream. Here, we investigated the basis of this adaptation in a group of fungal species which are among the most common causes of hospital-acquired infections, the Candida species. On the basis of a human whole-blood infection model, we studied which genes and processes are active over the course of an infection in both the host and four different Candida pathogens. Remarkably, we found that, while the human host response during the early phase of infection is predominantly uniform, the pathogens pursue largely individual strategies and each one regulates genes involved in largely disparate processes in the blood. Our results reveal that C. albicans, C. glabrata, C. parapsilosis, and C. tropicalis all have developed individual strategies for survival in the host. This indicates that their pathogenicity in humans has evolved several times independently and that genes which are central for survival in the host for one species may be irrelevant in another.

Authors: P. Kammer, S. McNamara, Thomas Wolf, Theresia Conrad, Stefanie Allert, F. Gerwien, Kerstin Hünniger, Oliver Kurzai, Reinhard Guthke, Bernhard Hube, Jörg Linde, S. Brunke

Date Published: 6th Oct 2020

Journal: mBio

Abstract (Expand)

BACKGROUND: Antibiotic treatment has a well-established detrimental effect on the gut bacterial composition, but effects on the fungal community are less clear. Bacteria in the lumen of the gastrointestinal tract may limit fungal colonization and invasion. Antibiotic drugs targeting bacteria are therefore seen as an important risk factor for fungal infections and induced allergies. However, antibiotic effects on gut bacterial-fungal interactions, including disruption and resilience of fungal community compositions, were not investigated in humans. We analysed stool samples collected from 14 healthy human participants over 3 months following a 6-day antibiotic administration. We integrated data from shotgun metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, metabolomics, and fungal ITS2 sequencing. RESULTS: While the bacterial community recovered mostly over 3 months post treatment, the fungal community was shifted from mutualism at baseline to competition. Half of the bacterial-fungal interactions present before drug intervention had disappeared 3 months later. During treatment, fungal abundances were associated with the expression of bacterial genes with functions for cell growth and repair. By extending the metagenomic species approach, we revealed bacterial strains inhibiting the opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans. We demonstrated in vitro how C. albicans pathogenicity and host cell damage might be controlled naturally in the human gut by bacterial metabolites such as propionate or 5-dodecenoate. CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrated that antibacterial drugs have long-term influence on the human gut mycobiome. While bacterial communities recovered mostly 30-days post antibacterial treatment, the fungal community was shifted from mutualism towards competition. Video abstract.

Authors: Bastian Seelbinder, J. Chen, S. Brunke, R. Vazquez-Uribe, R. Santhaman, A. C. Meyer, F. S. de Oliveira Lino, K. F. Chan, D. Loos, L. Imamovic, C. C. Tsang, R. P. Lam, S. Sridhar, K. Kang, Bernhard Hube, P. C. Woo, M. O. A. Sommer, Gianni Panagiotou

Date Published: 12th Sep 2020

Journal: Microbiome

Abstract (Expand)

The dimorphic fungus Candida albicans is both a harmless commensal organism on mucosal surfaces and an opportunistic pathogen. Under certain predisposing conditions, the fungus can overgrow the mucosal microbiome and cause both superficial and life-threatening systemic infections after gaining access to the bloodstream. As the first line of defense of the innate immune response, infecting C. albicans cells face macrophages, which mediate the clearance of invading fungi by intracellular killing. However, the fungus has evolved sophisticated strategies to counteract macrophage antimicrobial activities and thus evade immune surveillance. The cytolytic peptide toxin, candidalysin, contributes to this fungal defense machinery by damaging immune cell membranes, providing an escape route from the hostile phagosome environment. Nevertheless, candidalysin also induces NLRP3 inflammasome activation, leading to an increased host-protective pro-inflammatory response in mononuclear phagocytes. Therefore, candidalysin facilitates immune evasion by acting as a classical virulence factor but also contributes to an antifungal immune response, serving as an avirulence factor. In this review, we discuss the role of candidalysin during C. albicans infections, focusing on its implications during C. albicans-macrophage interactions.

Authors: A. Konig, Bernhard Hube, Lydia Kasper

Date Published: 24th Jul 2020

Journal: Toxins (Basel)

Abstract (Expand)

The capacity of Candida albicans to reversibly change its morphology between yeast and filamentous stages is crucial for its virulence. Formation of hyphae correlates with the upregulation of genes ALS3 and ECE1, which are involved in pathogenicity processes such as invasion, iron acquisition, and host cell damage. The global repressor Tup1 and its cofactor Nrg1 are considered to be the main antagonists of hyphal development in C. albicans However, our experiments revealed that Tup1, but not Nrg1, was required for full expression of ALS3 and ECE1 In contrast to NRG1, overexpression of TUP1 was found to inhibit neither filamentous growth nor transcription of ALS3 and ECE1 In addition, we identified the transcription factor Ahr1 as being required for full expression of both genes. A hyperactive version of Ahr1 bound directly to the promoters of ALS3 and ECE1 and induced their transcription even in the absence of environmental stimuli. This regulation worked even in the absence of the crucial hyphal growth regulators Cph1 and Efg1 but was dependent on the presence of Tup1. Overall, our results show that Ahr1 and Tup1 are key contributors in the complex regulation of virulence-associated genes in the different C. albicans morphologies.IMPORTANCE Candida albicans is a major human fungal pathogen and the leading cause of systemic Candida infections. In recent years, Als3 and Ece1 were identified as important factors for fungal virulence. Transcription of both corresponding genes is closely associated with hyphal growth. Here, we describe how Tup1, normally a global repressor of gene expression as well as of filamentation, and the transcription factor Ahr1 contribute to full expression of ALS3 and ECE1 in C. albicans hyphae. Both regulators are required for high mRNA amounts of the two genes to ensure functional relevant protein synthesis and localization. These observations identified a new aspect of regulation in the complex transcriptional control of virulence-associated genes in C. albicans.

Authors: S. Ruben, E. Garbe, Selene Mogavero, Daniela Albrecht-Eckardt, D. Hellwig, A. Hader, Thomas Krüger, K. Gerth, Ilse Jacobsen, O. Elshafee, S. Brunke, Kerstin Hünniger, Olaf Kniemeyer, Axel Brakhage, Joachim Morschhäuser, Bernhard Hube, Slavena Vylkova, Oliver Kurzai, R. Martin

Date Published: 28th Apr 2020

Journal: mBio

Abstract (Expand)

Alterations of the microbial composition in the gut and the concomitant dysregulation of the mucosal immune response are associated with the pathogenesis of opportunistic infections, chronic inflammation, and inflammatory bowel disease. To create a platform for the investigation of the underlying mechanisms, we established a three-dimensional microphysiological model of the human intestine. This model resembles organotypic microanatomical structures and includes tissue resident innate immune cells exhibiting features of mucosal macrophages and dendritic cells. The model displays the physiological immune tolerance of the intestinal lumen to microbial-associated molecular patterns and can, therefore, be colonised with living microorganisms. Functional studies on microbial interaction between probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus and the opportunistic pathogen Candida albicans show that pre-colonization of the intestinal lumen of the model by L. rhamnosus reduces C. albicans-induced tissue damage, lowers its translocation, and limits fungal burden. We demonstrate that microbial interactions can be efficiently investigated using the in vitro model creating a more physiological and immunocompetent microenvironment. The intestinal model allows a detailed characterisation of the immune response, microbial pathogenicity mechanisms, and quantification of cellular dysfunction attributed to alterations in the microbial composition.

Authors: M. Maurer, M. S. Gresnigt, A. Last, T. Wollny, F. Berlinghof, R. Pospich, Z. Cseresnyes, A. Medyukhina, K. Graf, M. Groger, M. Raasch, F. Siwczak, S. Nietzsche, Ilse Jacobsen, Marc Thilo Figge, Bernhard Hube, O. Huber, A. S. Mosig

Date Published: 10th Aug 2019

Journal: Biomaterials

Abstract (Expand)

Th17 cells provide protection at barrier tissues but may also contribute to immune pathology. The relevance and induction mechanisms of pathologic Th17 responses in humans are poorly understood. Here, we identify the mucocutaneous pathobiont Candida albicans as the major direct inducer of human anti-fungal Th17 cells. Th17 cells directed against other fungi are induced by cross-reactivity to C. albicans. Intestinal inflammation expands total C. albicans and cross-reactive Th17 cells. Strikingly, Th17 cells cross-reactive to the airborne fungus Aspergillus fumigatus are selectively activated and expanded in patients with airway inflammation, especially during acute allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. This indicates a direct link between protective intestinal Th17 responses against C. albicans and lung inflammation caused by airborne fungi. We identify heterologous immunity to a single, ubiquitous member of the microbiota as a central mechanism for systemic induction of human anti-fungal Th17 responses and as a potential risk factor for pulmonary inflammatory diseases.

Authors: P. Bacher, T. Hohnstein, E. Beerbaum, M. Rocker, M. G. Blango, S. Kaufmann, J. Rohmel, P. Eschenhagen, C. Grehn, K. Seidel, V. Rickerts, L. Lozza, U. Stervbo, M. Nienen, N. Babel, J. Milleck, M. Assenmacher, O. A. Cornely, M. Ziegler, H. Wisplinghoff, G. Heine, M. Worm, B. Siegmund, J. Maul, P. Creutz, C. Tabeling, C. Ruwwe-Glosenkamp, L. E. Sander, C. Knosalla, S. Brunke, Bernhard Hube, Olaf Kniemeyer, Axel Brakhage, C. Schwarz, A. Scheffold

Date Published: 7th Mar 2019

Journal: Cell

Abstract (Expand)

Clearance of invading microbes requires phagocytes of the innate immune system. However, successful pathogens have evolved sophisticated strategies to evade immune killing. The opportunistic human fungal pathogen Candida albicans is efficiently phagocytosed by macrophages, but causes inflammasome activation, host cytolysis, and escapes after hypha formation. Previous studies suggest that macrophage lysis by C. albicans results from early inflammasome-dependent cell death (pyroptosis), late damage due to glucose depletion and membrane piercing by growing hyphae. Here we show that Candidalysin, a cytolytic peptide toxin encoded by the hypha-associated gene ECE1, is both a central trigger for NLRP3 inflammasome-dependent caspase-1 activation via potassium efflux and a key driver of inflammasome-independent cytolysis of macrophages and dendritic cells upon infection with C. albicans. This suggests that Candidalysin-induced cell damage is a third mechanism of C. albicans-mediated mononuclear phagocyte cell death in addition to damage caused by pyroptosis and the growth of glucose-consuming hyphae.

Authors: Lydia Kasper, A. Konig, P. A. Koenig, M. S. Gresnigt, J. Westman, R. A. Drummond, M. S. Lionakis, O. Gross, J. Ruland, J. R. Naglik, Bernhard Hube

Date Published: 15th Oct 2018

Journal: Nat Commun

Abstract (Expand)

Life-threatening systemic infections often occur due to the translocation of pathogens across the gut barrier and into the bloodstream. While the microbial and host mechanisms permitting bacterial gut translocation are well characterized, these mechanisms are still unclear for fungal pathogens such as Candida albicans, a leading cause of nosocomial fungal bloodstream infections. In this study, we dissected the cellular mechanisms of translocation of C. albicans across intestinal epithelia in vitro and identified fungal genes associated with this process. We show that fungal translocation is a dynamic process initiated by invasion and followed by cellular damage and loss of epithelial integrity. A screen of >2,000 C. albicans deletion mutants identified genes required for cellular damage of and translocation across enterocytes. Correlation analysis suggests that hypha formation, barrier damage above a minimum threshold level, and a decreased epithelial integrity are required for efficient fungal translocation. Translocation occurs predominantly via a transcellular route, which is associated with fungus-induced necrotic epithelial damage, but not apoptotic cell death. The cytolytic peptide toxin of C. albicans, candidalysin, was found to be essential for damage of enterocytes and was a key factor in subsequent fungal translocation, suggesting that transcellular translocation of C. albicans through intestinal layers is mediated by candidalysin. However, fungal invasion and low-level translocation can also occur via non-transcellular routes in a candidalysin-independent manner. This is the first study showing translocation of a human-pathogenic fungus across the intestinal barrier being mediated by a peptide toxin.IMPORTANCECandida albicans, usually a harmless fungus colonizing human mucosae, can cause lethal bloodstream infections when it manages to translocate across the intestinal epithelium. This can result from antibiotic treatment, immune dysfunction, or intestinal damage (e.g., during surgery). However, fungal processes may also contribute. In this study, we investigated the translocation process of C. albicans using in vitro cell culture models. Translocation occurs as a stepwise process starting with invasion, followed by epithelial damage and loss of epithelial integrity. The ability to secrete candidalysin, a peptide toxin deriving from the hyphal protein Ece1, is key: C. albicans hyphae, secreting candidalysin, take advantage of a necrotic weakened epithelium to translocate through the intestinal layer.

Authors: Stefanie Allert, Toni Förster, Carl-Magnus Svensson, J. P. Richardson, T. Pawlik, B. Hebecker, Sven Rudolphi, M. Juraschitz, M. Schaller, M. Blagojevic, Joachim Morschhäuser, Marc Thilo Figge, Ilse Jacobsen, J. R. Naglik, Lydia Kasper, Selene Mogavero, Bernhard Hube

Date Published: 5th Jun 2018

Journal: mBio

Abstract (Expand)

The metabolic flexibility of the opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans is important for colonisation and infection of different host niches. Complex regulatory networks, in which protein kinases play central roles, link metabolism and other virulence-associated traits, such as filamentous growth and stress resistance, and thereby control commensalism and pathogenicity. By screening a protein kinase deletion mutant library that was generated in the present work using an improved SAT1 flipper cassette, we found that the previously uncharacterised kinase Sak1 is a key upstream activator of the protein kinase Snf1, a highly conserved regulator of nutrient stress responses that is essential for viability in C. albicans. The sak1Delta mutants failed to grow on many alternative carbon sources and were hypersensitive to cell wall/membrane stress. These phenotypes were mirrored in mutants lacking other subunits of the SNF1 complex and partially compensated by a hyperactive form of Snf1. Transcriptional profiling of sak1Delta mutants showed that Sak1 ensures basal expression of glyoxylate cycle and gluconeogenesis genes even in glucose-rich media and thereby contributes to the metabolic plasticity of C. albicans. In a mouse model of gastrointestinal colonisation, sak1Delta mutants were rapidly outcompeted by wild-type cells, demonstrating that Sak1 is essential for the in vivo fitness of C. albicans.

Authors: Bernardo Ramirez-Zavala, Austin Mottola, J. Haubenreisser, S. Schneider, Stefanie Allert, S. Brunke, K. Ohlsen, Bernhard Hube, Joachim Morschhäuser

Date Published: 25th Mar 2017

Journal: Mol Microbiol

Abstract (Expand)

During infection, the human pathogenic fungus Candida albicans undergoes a yeast-to-hypha transition, secretes numerous proteins for invasion of host tissues, and modulates the host's immune response. Little is known about the interplay of C. albicans secreted proteins and the host adaptive immune system. Here, we applied a combined 2D gel- and LC-MS/MS-based approach for the characterization of C. albicans extracellular proteins during the yeast-to-hypha transition, which led to a comprehensive C. albicans secretome map. The serological responses to C. albicans extracellular proteins were investigated by a 2D-immunoblotting approach combined with MS for protein identification. On the basis of the screening of sera from candidemia and three groups of noncandidemia patients, a core set of 19 immunodominant antibodies against secreted proteins of C. albicans was identified, seven of which represent potential diagnostic markers for candidemia (Xog1, Lip4, Asc1, Met6, Tsa1, Tpi1, and Prx1). Intriguingly, some secreted, strongly glycosylated protein antigens showed high cross-reactivity with sera from noncandidemia control groups. Enzymatic deglycosylation of proteins secreted from hyphae significantly impaired sera antibody recognition. Furthermore, deglycosylation of the recombinantly produced, secreted aspartyl protease Sap6 confirmed a significant contribution of glycan epitopes to the recognition of Sap6 by antibodies in patient's sera.

Authors: T. Luo, Thomas Krüger, U. Knupfer, Lydia Kasper, N. Wielsch, Bernhard Hube, A. Kortgen, Michael Bauer, E. J. Giamarellos-Bourboulis, G. Dimopoulos, Axel Brakhage, Olaf Kniemeyer

Date Published: 5th Aug 2016

Journal: J Proteome Res

Abstract (Expand)

Cytolytic proteins and peptide toxins are classical virulence factors of several bacterial pathogens which disrupt epithelial barrier function, damage cells and activate or modulate host immune responses. Such toxins have not been identified previously in human pathogenic fungi. Here we identify the first, to our knowledge, fungal cytolytic peptide toxin in the opportunistic pathogen Candida albicans. This secreted toxin directly damages epithelial membranes, triggers a danger response signalling pathway and activates epithelial immunity. Membrane permeabilization is enhanced by a positive charge at the carboxy terminus of the peptide, which triggers an inward current concomitant with calcium influx. C. albicans strains lacking this toxin do not activate or damage epithelial cells and are avirulent in animal models of mucosal infection. We propose the name 'Candidalysin' for this cytolytic peptide toxin; a newly identified, critical molecular determinant of epithelial damage and host recognition of the clinically important fungus, C. albicans.

Authors: D. L. Moyes, D. Wilson, J. P. Richardson, S. Mogavero, S. X. Tang, J. Wernecke, S. Hofs, R. L. Gratacap, J. Robbins, M. Runglall, C. Murciano, M. Blagojevic, S. Thavaraj, Toni Förster, B. Hebecker, Lydia Kasper, G. Vizcay, S. I. Iancu, N. Kichik, A. Hader, Oliver Kurzai, T. Luo, T. Kruger, O. Kniemeyer, E. Cota, O. Bader, R. T. Wheeler, T. Gutsmann, Bernhard Hube, J. R. Naglik

Date Published: 30th Mar 2016

Journal: Nature

Abstract (Expand)

Only few Candida species, e.g., Candida albicans, Candida glabrata, Candida dubliniensis, and Candida parapsilosis, are successful colonizers of a human host. Under certain circumstances these species can cause infections ranging from superficial to life-threatening disseminated candidiasis. The success of C. albicans, the most prevalent and best studied Candida species, as both commensal and human pathogen depends on its genetic, biochemical, and morphological flexibility which facilitates adaptation to a wide range of host niches. In addition, formation of biofilms provides additional protection from adverse environmental conditions. Furthermore, in many host niches Candida cells coexist with members of the human microbiome. The resulting fungal-bacterial interactions have a major influence on the success of C. albicans as commensal and also influence disease development and outcome. In this chapter, we review the current knowledge of important survival strategies of Candida spp., focusing on fundamental fitness and virulence traits of C. albicans.

Authors: M. Polke, Bernhard Hube, Ilse Jacobsen

Date Published: 24th Feb 2015

Journal: Adv Appl Microbiol

Abstract (Expand)

Following antifungal treatment, Candida albicans, and other human pathogenic fungi can undergo microevolution, which leads to the emergence of drug resistance. However, the capacity for microevolutionary adaptation of fungi goes beyond the development of resistance against antifungals. Here we used an experimental microevolution approach to show that one of the central pathogenicity mechanisms of C. albicans, the yeast-to-hyphae transition, can be subject to experimental evolution. The C. albicans cph1Delta/efg1Delta mutant is nonfilamentous, as central signaling pathways linking environmental cues to hyphal formation are disrupted. We subjected this mutant to constant selection pressure in the hostile environment of the macrophage phagosome. In a comparatively short time-frame, the mutant evolved the ability to escape macrophages by filamentation. In addition, the evolved mutant exhibited hyper-virulence in a murine infection model and an altered cell wall composition compared to the cph1Delta/efg1Delta strain. Moreover, the transcriptional regulation of hyphae-associated, and other pathogenicity-related genes became re-responsive to environmental cues in the evolved strain. We went on to identify the causative missense mutation via whole genome- and transcriptome-sequencing: a single nucleotide exchange took place within SSN3 that encodes a component of the Cdk8 module of the Mediator complex, which links transcription factors with the general transcription machinery. This mutation was responsible for the reconnection of the hyphal growth program with environmental signals in the evolved strain and was sufficient to bypass Efg1/Cph1-dependent filamentation. These data demonstrate that even central transcriptional networks can be remodeled very quickly under appropriate selection pressure.

Authors: A. Wartenberg, Jörg Linde, R. Martin, M. Schreiner, F. Horn, Ilse Jacobsen, S. Jenull, Thomas Wolf, K. Kuchler, Reinhard Guthke, Oliver Kurzai, A. Forche, C. d'Enfert, S. Brunke, Bernhard Hube

Date Published: 4th Dec 2014

Journal: PLoS Genet

Abstract (Expand)

Fungal pathogens must assimilate local nutrients to establish an infection in their mammalian host. We focus on carbon, nitrogen, and micronutrient assimilation mechanisms, discussing how these influence host-fungus interactions during infection. We highlight several emerging trends based on the available data. First, the perturbation of carbon, nitrogen, or micronutrient assimilation attenuates fungal pathogenicity. Second, the contrasting evolutionary pressures exerted on facultative versus obligatory pathogens have led to contemporary pathogenic fungal species that display differing degrees of metabolic flexibility. The evolutionarily ancient metabolic pathways are conserved in most fungal pathogen, but interesting gaps exist in some species (e.g., Candida glabrata). Third, metabolic flexibility is generally essential for fungal pathogenicity, and in particular, for the adaptation to contrasting host microenvironments such as the gastrointestinal tract, mucosal surfaces, bloodstream, and internal organs. Fourth, this metabolic flexibility relies on complex regulatory networks, some of which are conserved across lineages, whereas others have undergone significant evolutionary rewiring. Fifth, metabolic adaptation affects fungal susceptibility to antifungal drugs and also presents exciting opportunities for the development of novel therapies.

Authors: I. V. Ene, S. Brunke, A. J. Brown, Bernhard Hube

Date Published: 4th Sep 2014

Journal: Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med

Abstract (Expand)

OBJECTIVES: Candida albicans is an important fungal pathogen that can cause life-threatening disseminated infections. To determine the efficacy of therapy in murine models, a determination of renal fungal burden as cfu is commonly used. However, this approach provides only a snapshot of the current situation in an individual animal and cryptic sites of infection may easily be missed. Thus, we aimed to develop real-time non-invasive imaging to monitor infection in vivo. METHODS: Bioluminescent C. albicans reporter strains were developed based on a bioinformatical approach for codon optimization. The reporter strains were analysed in vitro and in vivo in the murine model of systemic candidiasis. RESULTS: Reporter strains allowed the in vivo monitoring of infection and a determination of fungal burden, with a high correlation between bioluminescence and cfu count. We confirmed the kidney as the main target organ but additionally observed the translocation of C. albicans to the urinary bladder. The treatment of infected mice with caspofungin and fluconazole significantly improved the clinical outcome and clearance of C. albicans from the kidneys; however, unexpectedly, viable fungal cells persisted in the gall bladder. Fungi were secreted with bile and detected in the faeces, implicating the gall bladder as a reservoir for colonization by C. albicans after antifungal therapy. Bile extracts significantly decreased the susceptibility of C. albicans to various antifungals in vitro, thereby probably contributing to its persistence. CONCLUSIONS: Using in vivo imaging, we identified cryptic sites of infection and persistence of C. albicans in the gall bladder during otherwise effective antifungal treatment. Bile appears to directly interfere with antifungal activity.

Authors: Ilse Jacobsen, A. Luttich, Oliver Kurzai, Bernhard Hube, Matthias Brock

Date Published: 20th Jun 2014

Journal: J Antimicrob Chemother

Abstract (Expand)

Little is known regarding the role of NK cells during primary and secondary disseminated Candida albicans infection. We assessed the role of NK cells for host defense against candidiasis in immunocompetent, as well as immunodeficient, hosts. Surprisingly, depletion of NK cells in immunocompetent WT mice did not increase susceptibility to systemic candidiasis, suggesting that NK cells are redundant for antifungal defense in otherwise immunocompetent hosts. NK-cell-depleted mice were found to be protected as a consequence of attenuation of systemic inflammation. In contrast, the absence of NK cells in T/B/NK-cell-deficient NSG (NOD SCID gamma) mice led to an increased susceptibility to both primary and secondary systemic C. albicans infections compared with T/B-cell-deficient SCID mice. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that NK cells are an essential and nonredundant component of anti-C. albicans host defense in immunosuppressed hosts with defective T/B-lymphocyte immunity, while contributing to hyperinflammation in immunocompetent hosts. The discovery of the importance of NK cells in hosts with severe defects of adaptive immunity might have important consequences for the design of adjunctive immunotherapeutic approaches in systemic C. albicans infections targeting NK-cell function.

Authors: J. Quintin, J. Voigt, R. van der Voort, Ilse Jacobsen, I. Verschueren, Bernhard Hube, E. J. Giamarellos-Bourboulis, J. W. van der Meer, L. A. Joosten, Oliver Kurzai, M. G. Netea

Date Published: 27th May 2014

Journal: Eur J Immunol

Abstract (Expand)

Oral candidiasis remains one of the most common forms of Candida infections and occurs if the balance between host, Candida and microbiota is disturbed, e.g., by broad spectrum antibiotics or immunosuppression. In recent years, identification of fungal factors contributing to host cell damage and new insights into host defense mechanisms have significantly extended our understanding of the pathogenesis of oral candidiasis. In this review, we will provide an overview of the pathogenicity mechanisms during oral Candida infections and discuss some approaches by which this knowledge could be transferred into therapeutic approaches.

Authors: B. Hebecker, J. R. Naglik, Bernhard Hube, Ilse Jacobsen

Date Published: 7th May 2014

Journal: Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther

Abstract (Expand)

Nitrogen is one of the key nutrients for microbial growth. During infection, pathogenic fungi like C. albicans need to acquire nitrogen from a broad range of different and changing sources inside the host. Detecting the available nitrogen sources and adjusting the expression of genes for their uptake and degradation is therefore crucial for survival and growth as well as for establishing an infection. Here, we analyzed the transcriptional response of C. albicans to nitrogen starvation and feeding with the infection-relevant nitrogen sources arginine and bovine serum albumin (BSA), representing amino acids and proteins, respectively. The response to nitrogen starvation was marked by an immediate repression of protein synthesis and an up-regulation of general amino acid permeases, as well as an up-regulation of autophagal processes in its later stages. Feeding with arginine led to a fast reduction in expression of general permeases for amino acids and to resumption of protein synthesis. The response to BSA feeding was generally slower, and was additionally characterized by an up-regulation of oligopeptide transporter genes. From time-series data, we inferred network interaction models for genes relevant in nitrogen detection and uptake. Each individual network was found to be largely specific for the experimental condition (starvation or feeding with arginine or BSA). In addition, we detected several novel connections between regulator and effector genes, with putative roles in nitrogen uptake. We conclude that C. albicans adopts a particular nitrogen response network, defined by sets of specific gene-gene connections for each environmental condition. All together, they form a grid of possible gene regulatory networks, increasing the transcriptional flexibility of C. albicans.

Authors: S. Ramachandra, Jörg Linde, Matthias Brock, Reinhard Guthke, Bernhard Hube, S. Brunke

Date Published: 20th Mar 2014

Journal: PLoS One

Abstract (Expand)

Human fungal pathogens are distributed throughout their kingdom, suggesting that pathogenic potential evolved independently. Candida albicans is the most virulent member of the CUG clade of yeasts and a common cause of both superficial and invasive infections. We therefore hypothesized that C. albicans possesses distinct pathogenicity mechanisms. In silico genome subtraction and comparative transcriptional analysis identified a total of 65 C. albicans-specific genes (ASGs) expressed during infection. Phenotypic characterization of six ASG-null mutants demonstrated that these genes are dispensable for in vitro growth but play defined roles in host-pathogen interactions. Based on these analyses, we investigated two ASGs in greater detail. An orf19.6688Delta mutant was found to be fully virulent in a mouse model of disseminated candidiasis and to induce higher levels of the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) following incubation with murine macrophages. A pga16Delta mutant, on the other hand, exhibited attenuated virulence. Moreover, we provide evidence that secondary filamentation events (multiple hyphae emerging from a mother cell and hyphal branching) contribute to pathogenicity: PGA16 deletion did not influence primary hypha formation or extension following contact with epithelial cells; however, multiple hyphae and hyphal branching were strongly reduced. Significantly, these hyphae failed to damage host cells as effectively as the multiple hypha structures formed by wild-type C. albicans cells. Together, our data show that species-specific genes of a eukaryotic pathogen can play important roles in pathogenicity.

Authors: D. Wilson, F. L. Mayer, P. Miramon, F. Citiulo, S. Slesiona, Ilse Jacobsen, Bernhard Hube

Date Published: 7th Mar 2014

Journal: Eukaryot Cell

Abstract (Expand)

Candida albicans is the most common opportunistic fungal pathogen of the human mucosal flora, frequently causing infections. The fungus is responsible for invasive infections in immunocompromised patients that can lead to sepsis. The yeast to hypha transition and invasion of host-tissue represent major determinants in the switch from benign colonizer to invasive pathogen. A comprehensive understanding of the infection process requires analyses at the quantitative level. Utilizing fluorescence microscopy with differential staining, we obtained images of C. albicans undergoing epithelial invasion during a time course of 6 h. An image-based systems biology approach, combining image analysis and mathematical modeling, was applied to quantify the kinetics of hyphae development, hyphal elongation, and epithelial invasion. The automated image analysis facilitates high-throughput screening and provided quantities that allow for the time-resolved characterization of the morphological and invasive state of fungal cells. The interpretation of these data was supported by two mathematical models, a kinetic growth model and a kinetic transition model, that were developed using differential equations. The kinetic growth model describes the increase in hyphal length and revealed that hyphae undergo mass invasion of epithelial cells following primary hypha formation. We also provide evidence that epithelial cells stimulate the production of secondary hyphae by C. albicans. Based on the kinetic transition model, the route of invasion was quantified in the state space of non-invasive and invasive fungal cells depending on their number of hyphae. This analysis revealed that the initiation of hyphae formation represents an ultimate commitment to invasive growth and suggests that in vivo, the yeast to hypha transition must be under exquisitely tight negative regulation to avoid the transition from commensal to pathogen invading the epithelium.

Authors: F. Mech, D. Wilson, T. Lehnert, Bernhard Hube, M. Thilo Figge

Date Published: 20th Nov 2013

Journal: Cytometry A

Abstract (Expand)

BACKGROUND: Natural killer (NK) cells are innate lymphocytes with potent cytotoxic activity. Whereas activity of NK cells has been demonstrated against the fungal pathogens Aspergillus fumigatus and Cryptococcus neoformans, little was known about their interaction with Candida albicans. METHODS: Primary human NK cells were isolated from buffy coats, primed with a cytokine cocktail and used for confrontation assays with C. albicans. Interaction was monitored and quantified using live cell imaging, confocal microscopy, flow cytometry, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. RESULTS: Human NK cells actively recognized C. albicans, resulting in degranulation and secretion of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, interferon gamma, and tumor necrosis factor alpha . Uniquely, activation of NK cells was triggered by actin-dependent phagocytosis. Antifungal activity of NK cells against C. albicans could be detected and mainly attributed to secreted perforin. However, NK cells were unable to inhibit filamentation of C. albicans. Human polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs) counteracted the proinflammatory reaction of NK cells by preventing direct contact between NK cells and the fungal pathogen. Activation of PMNs was enhanced in the presence of NK cells, resulting in increased fungicidal activity. CONCLUSIONS: Our results show a unique pattern of NK cell interaction with C. albicans, which involves direct proinflammatory activation and modulation of PMN activity. For the first time, phagocytosis of a pathogen is shown to contribute to NK cell activation.

Authors: J. Voigt, Kerstin Hünniger, M. Bouzani, Ilse Jacobsen, D. Barz, Bernhard Hube, Jürgen Löffler, Oliver Kurzai

Date Published: 25th Oct 2013

Journal: J Infect Dis

Abstract (Expand)

The pathology of vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) caused by Candida albicans is associated with a nonprotective inflammatory response and is frequently treated with clotrimazole. We investigated the mechanisms by which clotrimazole resolves VVC. Low levels of clotrimazole, which do not block fungal growth, inhibit expression of a "danger response" transcription factor, c-Fos, block production of proinflammatory cytokines, and inhibit neutrophil infiltration to the site of infection.

Authors: D. Wilson, B. Hebecker, D. L. Moyes, P. Miramon, N. Jablonowski, S. Wisgott, S. Allert, J. R. Naglik, Bernhard Hube

Date Published: 29th Jul 2013

Journal: Antimicrob Agents Chemother


Not specified

Authors: G. P. Otto, K. Ludewig, Ilse Jacobsen, Barbara Schaarschmidt, Bernhard Hube, Michael Bauer

Date Published: 12th Jun 2013

Journal: Crit Care

Abstract (Expand)

Systemic infections of humans with the fungal pathogen Candida albicans are associated with a high mortality rate. Currently, efficient treatment of these infections is hampered by the relatively low number of available antifungal drugs. We recently identified the small heat shock protein Hsp21 in C. albicans and demonstrated its fundamental role for environmental stress adaptation and fungal virulence. Hsp21 was found in several pathogenic Candida species but not in humans. This prompted us to investigate the effects of a broad range of different antifungal drugs on an Hsp21-null C. albicans mutant strain. Our results indicate that combinatorial therapy targeting Hsp21, together with specific antifungal drug targets, has strong synergistic potential. In addition, we demonstrate that Hsp21 is required for tolerance to ethanol-induced stress and induction of filamentation in response to pharmacological inhibition of Hsp90. These findings might pave the way for the development of new treatment strategies against Candida infections.

Authors: F. L. Mayer, D. Wilson, Bernhard Hube

Date Published: 22nd Mar 2013

Journal: PLoS One

Abstract (Expand)

Although morphological plasticity is a central virulence trait of Candida albicans, the number of filament-associated genes and the interplay of mechanisms regulating their expression remain unknown. By correlation-based network modeling of the transcriptional response to different defined external stimuli for morphogenesis we identified a set of eight genes with highly correlated expression patterns, forming a core filamentation response. This group of genes included ALS3, ECE1, HGT2, HWP1, IHD1 and RBT1 which are known or supposed to encode for cell- wall associated proteins as well as the Rac1 guanine nucleotide exchange factor encoding gene DCK1 and the unknown function open reading frame orf19.2457. The validity of network modeling was confirmed using a dataset of advanced complexity that describes the transcriptional response of C. albicans during epithelial invasion as well as comparing our results with other previously published transcriptome studies. Although the set of core filamentation response genes was quite small, several transcriptional regulators are involved in the control of their expression, depending on the environmental condition.

Authors: R. Martin, Daniela Albrecht-Eckardt, S. Brunke, Bernhard Hube, Kerstin Hünniger, Oliver Kurzai

Date Published: 14th Mar 2013

Journal: PLoS One

Abstract (Expand)

The amino acid cysteine has long been known to be toxic at elevated levels for bacteria, fungi, and humans. However, mechanisms of cysteine tolerance in microbes remain largely obscure. Here we show that the human pathogenic yeast Candida albicans excretes sulfite when confronted with increasing cysteine concentrations. Mutant construction and phenotypic analysis revealed that sulfite formation from cysteine in C. albicans relies on cysteine dioxygenase Cdg1, an enzyme with similar functions in humans. Environmental cysteine induced not only the expression of the CDG1 gene in C. albicans, but also the expression of SSU1, encoding a putative sulfite efflux pump. Accordingly, the deletion of SSU1 resulted in enhanced sensitivity of the fungal cells to both cysteine and sulfite. To study the regulation of sulfite/cysteine tolerance in more detail, we screened a C. albicans library of transcription factor mutants in the presence of sulfite. This approach and subsequent independent mutant analysis identified the zinc cluster transcription factor Zcf2 to govern sulfite/cysteine tolerance, as well as cysteine-inducible SSU1 and CDG1 gene expression. cdg1Delta and ssu1Delta mutants displayed reduced hypha formation in the presence of cysteine, indicating a possible role of the newly proposed mechanisms of cysteine tolerance and sulfite secretion in the pathogenicity of C. albicans. Moreover, cdg1Delta mutants induced delayed mortality in a mouse model of disseminated infection. Since sulfite is toxic and a potent reducing agent, its production by C. albicans suggests diverse roles during host adaptation and pathogenicity.

Authors: F. Hennicke, M. Grumbt, U. Lermann, N. Ueberschaar, K. Palige, B. Bottcher, Ilse Jacobsen, C. Staib, J. Morschhauser, M. Monod, Bernhard Hube, C. Hertweck, P. Staib

Date Published: 15th Feb 2013

Journal: Eukaryot Cell

Abstract (Expand)

The ability to adapt to diverse micro-environmental challenges encountered within a host is of pivotal importance to the opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans. We have quantified C. albicans and M. musculus gene expression dynamics during phagocytosis by dendritic cells in a genome-wide, time-resolved analysis using simultaneous RNA-seq. A robust network inference map was generated from this dataset using NetGenerator, predicting novel interactions between the host and the pathogen. We experimentally verified predicted interdependent sub-networks comprising Hap3 in C. albicans, and Ptx3 and Mta2 in M. musculus. Remarkably, binding of recombinant Ptx3 to the C. albicans cell wall was found to regulate the expression of fungal Hap3 target genes as predicted by the network inference model. Pre-incubation of C. albicans with recombinant Ptx3 significantly altered the expression of Mta2 target cytokines such as IL-2 and IL-4 in a Hap3-dependent manner, further suggesting a role for Mta2 in host-pathogen interplay as predicted in the network inference model. We propose an integrated model for the functionality of these sub-networks during fungal invasion of immune cells, according to which binding of Ptx3 to the C. albicans cell wall induces remodeling via fungal Hap3 target genes, thereby altering the immune response to the pathogen. We show the applicability of network inference to predict interactions between host-pathogen pairs, demonstrating the usefulness of this systems biology approach to decipher mechanisms of microbial pathogenesis.

Authors: L. Tierney, Jörg Linde, S. Muller, S. Brunke, J. C. Molina, Bernhard Hube, U. Schock, Reinhard Guthke, K. Kuchler

Date Published: 12th Mar 2012

Journal: Front Microbiol

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