Abstract (Expand)

Burn wounds are highly susceptible sites for colonization and infection by bacteria and fungi. Large wound surface, impaired local immunity, and broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy support growth of opportunistic fungi such as Candida albicans, which may lead to invasive candidiasis. Currently, it remains unknown whether depressed host defenses or fungal virulence drive the progression of burn wound candidiasis. Here we established an ex vivo burn wound model, where wounds were inflicted by applying preheated soldering iron to human skin explants, resulting in highly reproducible deep second-degree burn wounds. Eschar removal by debridement allowed for deeper C. albicans penetration into the burned tissue associated with prominent filamentation. Active migration of resident tissue neutrophils towards the damaged tissue and release of pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-1beta accompanied the burn. The neutrophil recruitment was further increased upon supplementation of the model with fresh immune cells. Wound area and depth decreased over time, indicating healing of the damaged tissue. Importantly, prominent neutrophil presence at the infected site correlated to the limited penetration of C. albicans into the burned tissue. Altogether, we established a reproducible burn wound model of candidiasis using ex vivo human skin explants, where immune responses actively control the progression of infection and promote tissue healing.

Authors: C. von Muller, F. Bulman, L. Wagner, D. Rosenberger, A. Marolda, Oliver Kurzai, P. Eissmann, Ilse Jacobsen, B. Perner, P. Hemmerich, Slavena Vylkova

Date Published: 11th Dec 2020

Journal: Sci Rep

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)

Migration and interactions of immune cells are routinely studied by time-lapse microscopy of in vitro migration and confrontation assays. To objectively quantify the dynamic behavior of cells, software tools for automated cell tracking can be applied. However, many existing tracking algorithms recognize only rather short fragments of a whole cell track and rely on cell staining to enhance cell segmentation. While our previously developed segmentation approach enables tracking of label-free cells, it still suffers from frequently recognizing only short track fragments. In this study, we identify sources of track fragmentation and provide solutions to obtain longer cell tracks. This is achieved by improving the detection of low-contrast cells and by optimizing the value of the gap size parameter, which defines the number of missing cell positions between track fragments that is accepted for still connecting them into one track. We find that the enhanced track recognition increases the average length of cell tracks up to 2.2-fold. Recognizing cell tracks as a whole will enable studying and quantifying more complex patterns of cell behavior, e.g. switches in migration mode or dependence of the phagocytosis efficiency on the number and type of preceding interactions. Such quantitative analyses will improve our understanding of how immune cells interact and function in health and disease.

Authors: N. Al-Zaben, A. Medyukhina, Stefanie Dietrich, A. Marolda, Kerstin Hünniger, Oliver Kurzai, Marc Thilo Figge

Date Published: 1st Mar 2019

Journal: Sci Rep

Abstract (Expand)

Polymorphonuclear neutrophilic granulocytes (PMN) as cellular components of innate immunity play a crucial role in the defense against systemic Candida albicans infection. To analyze stimuli that are required for PMN activity during C. albicans infection in a situation similar to in vivo, we used a human whole-blood infection model. In this model, PMN activation 10 min after C. albicans infection was largely dependent on the anaphylatoxin C5a. Most importantly, C5a enabled blood PMN to overcome filament-restricted recognition of C. albicans and allowed efficient elimination of nonfilamentous C. albicans cph1Delta/efg1Delta from blood. Major PMN effector mechanisms, including oxidative burst, release of secondary granule contents and initial fungal phagocytosis could be prevented by blocking C5a receptor signaling. Identical effects were achieved using a humanized Ab specifically targeting human C5a. Phagocytosis of C. albicans 10 min postinfection was mediated by C5a-dependent enhancement of CD11b surface expression on PMN, thus establishing the C5a-C5aR-CD11b axis as a major modulator of early anti-Candida immune responses in human blood. In contrast, phagocytosis of C. albicans by PMN 60 min postinfection occurred almost independently of C5a and mainly contributed to activation of phagocytically active PMN at later time points. Our results show that C5a is a critical mediator in human blood during C. albicans infection.

Authors: Kerstin Hünniger, K. Bieber, R. Martin, T. Lehnert, Marc Thilo Figge, J. Loffler, R. F. Guo, N. C. Riedemann, Oliver Kurzai

Date Published: 24th Dec 2014

Journal: J Immunol

Abstract (Expand)

Time-lapse microscopy is an important technique to study the dynamics of various biological processes. The labor-intensive manual analysis of microscopy videos is increasingly replaced by automated segmentation and tracking methods. These methods are often limited to certain cell morphologies and/or cell stainings. In this paper, we present an automated segmentation and tracking framework that does not have these restrictions. In particular, our framework handles highly variable cell shapes and does not rely on any cell stainings. Our segmentation approach is based on a combination of spatial and temporal image variations to detect moving cells in microscopy videos. This method yields a sensitivity of 99% and a precision of 95% in object detection. The tracking of cells consists of different steps, starting from single-cell tracking based on a nearest-neighbor-approach, detection of cell-cell interactions and splitting of cell clusters, and finally combining tracklets using methods from graph theory. The segmentation and tracking framework was applied to synthetic as well as experimental datasets with varying cell densities implying different numbers of cell-cell interactions. We established a validation framework to measure the performance of our tracking technique. The cell tracking accuracy was found to be >99% for all datasets indicating a high accuracy for connecting the detected cells between different time points.

Authors: S. Brandes, Z. Mokhtari, F. Essig, Kerstin Hünniger, Oliver Kurzai, Marc Thilo Figge

Date Published: 8th Nov 2014

Journal: Med Image Anal

Abstract (Expand)

Candida albicans bloodstream infection is increasingly frequent and can result in disseminated candidiasis associated with high mortality rates. To analyze the innate immune response against C. albicans, fungal cells were added to human whole-blood samples. After inoculation, C. albicans started to filament and predominantly associate with neutrophils, whereas only a minority of fungal cells became attached to monocytes. While many parameters of host-pathogen interaction were accessible to direct experimental quantification in the whole-blood infection assay, others were not. To overcome these limitations, we generated a virtual infection model that allowed detailed and quantitative predictions on the dynamics of host-pathogen interaction. Experimental time-resolved data were simulated using a state-based modeling approach combined with the Monte Carlo method of simulated annealing to obtain quantitative predictions on a priori unknown transition rates and to identify the main axis of antifungal immunity. Results clearly demonstrated a predominant role of neutrophils, mediated by phagocytosis and intracellular killing as well as the release of antifungal effector molecules upon activation, resulting in extracellular fungicidal activity. Both mechanisms together account for almost [Formula: see text] of C. albicans killing, clearly proving that beside being present in larger numbers than other leukocytes, neutrophils functionally dominate the immune response against C. albicans in human blood. A fraction of C. albicans cells escaped phagocytosis and remained extracellular and viable for up to four hours. This immune escape was independent of filamentation and fungal activity and not linked to exhaustion or inactivation of innate immune cells. The occurrence of C. albicans cells being resistant against phagocytosis may account for the high proportion of dissemination in C. albicans bloodstream infection. Taken together, iterative experiment-model-experiment cycles allowed quantitative analyses of the interplay between host and pathogen in a complex environment like human blood.

Authors: Kerstin Hünniger, T. Lehnert, K. Bieber, R. Martin, Marc Thilo Figge, Oliver Kurzai

Date Published: 20th Feb 2014

Journal: PLoS Comput Biol

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

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