Publications

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The fungal cell wall is essential for the maintenance of cellular integrity and mediates interactions of the cells with the environment. It is a highly flexible organelle whose composition and organization is modulated in response to changing growth conditions. In the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans, a network of signaling pathways regulates the structure of the cell wall, and mutants with defects in these pathways are hypersensitive to cell wall stress. By harnessing a library of genetically activated forms of all C. albicans zinc cluster transcription factors, we found that a hyperactive Czf1 rescued the hypersensitivity to cell wall stress of different protein kinase deletion mutants. The hyperactive Czf1 induced the expression of many genes with cell wall-related functions and caused visible changes in the cell wall structure. C. albicans czf1Delta mutants were hypersensitive to the antifungal drug caspofungin, which inhibits cell wall biosynthesis. The changes in cell wall architecture caused by hyperactivity or absence of Czf1 resulted in an increased recognition of C. albicans by human neutrophils. Our results show that Czf1, which is known as a regulator of filamentous growth and white-opaque switching, controls the expression of cell wall genes and modulates the architecture of the cell wall.

Authors: Austin Mottola, Bernardo Ramirez-Zavala, Kerstin Hünniger, Oliver Kurzai, Joachim Morschhäuser

Date Published: 15th Apr 2021

Journal: Mol Microbiol

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Invasive aspergillosis (IA) is a life-threatening complication among allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (alloSCT) recipients. Despite well known risk factors and different available assays, diagnosis of invasive aspergillosis remains challenging. 103 clinical variables from patients with hematological malignancies and subsequent alloSCT were collected. Associations between collected variables and patients with (n = 36) and without IA (n = 36) were investigated by applying univariate and multivariable logistic regression. The predictive power of the final model was tested in an independent patient cohort (23 IA cases and 25 control patients). Findings were investigated further by in vitro studies, which analysed the effect of etanercept on A. fumigatus-stimulated macrophages at the gene expression and cytokine secretion. Additionally, the release of C-X-C motif chemokine ligand 10 (CXCL10) in patient sera was studied. Low monocyte concentration (p = 4.8 x 10(-06)), severe GvHD of the gut (grade 2-4) (p = 1.08 x 10(-02)) and etanercept treatment of GvHD (p = 3.5 x 10(-03)) were significantly associated with IA. Our studies showed that etanercept lowers CXCL10 concentrations in vitro and ex vivo and down-regulates genes involved in immune responses and TNF-alpha signaling. Our study offers clinicians new information regarding risk factors for IA including low monocyte counts and administration of etanercept. After necessary validation, such information may be used for decision making regarding antifungal prophylaxis or closely monitoring patients at risk.

Authors: T. Zoran, Michael Weber, J. Springer, P. L. White, J. Bauer, A. Schober, C. Loffler, B. Seelbinder, Kerstin Hünniger, Oliver Kurzai, A. Scherag, Sascha Schäuble, C. O. Morton, Hermann Einsele, Jörg Linde, Jürgen Löffler

Date Published: 21st Nov 2019

Journal: Sci Rep

Abstract (Expand)

Farnesol, produced by the polymorphic fungus Candida albicans, is the first quorum-sensing molecule discovered in eukaryotes. Its main function is control of C. albicans filamentation, a process closely linked to pathogenesis. In this study, we analyzed the effects of farnesol on innate immune cells known to be important for fungal clearance and protective immunity. Farnesol enhanced the expression of activation markers on monocytes (CD86 and HLA-DR) and neutrophils (CD66b and CD11b) and promoted oxidative burst and the release of proinflammatory cytokines (tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNF-alpha] and macrophage inflammatory protein 1 alpha [MIP-1alpha]). However, this activation did not result in enhanced fungal uptake or killing. Furthermore, the differentiation of monocytes to immature dendritic cells (iDC) was significantly affected by farnesol. Several markers important for maturation and antigen presentation like CD1a, CD83, CD86, and CD80 were significantly reduced in the presence of farnesol. Furthermore, farnesol modulated migrational behavior and cytokine release and impaired the ability of DC to induce T cell proliferation. Of major importance was the absence of interleukin 12 (IL-12) induction in iDC generated in the presence of farnesol. Transcriptome analyses revealed a farnesol-induced shift in effector molecule expression and a down-regulation of the granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) receptor during monocytes to iDC differentiation. Taken together, our data unveil the ability of farnesol to act as a virulence factor of C. albicans by influencing innate immune cells to promote inflammation and mitigating the Th1 response, which is essential for fungal clearance. IMPORTANCE: Farnesol is a quorum-sensing molecule which controls morphological plasticity of the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans. As such, it is a major mediator of intraspecies communication. Here, we investigated the impact of farnesol on human innate immune cells known to be important for fungal clearance and protective immunity. We show that farnesol is able to enhance inflammation by inducing activation of neutrophils and monocytes. At the same time, farnesol impairs differentiation of monocytes into immature dendritic cells (iDC) by modulating surface phenotype, cytokine release and migrational behavior. Consequently, iDC generated in the presence of farnesol are unable to induce proper T cell responses and fail to secrete Th1 promoting interleukin 12 (IL-12). As farnesol induced down-regulation of the granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) receptor, desensitization to GM-CSF could potentially explain transcriptional reprofiling of iDC effector molecules. Taken together, our data show that farnesol can also mediate Candida-host communication and is able to act as a virulence factor.

Authors: I. Leonhardt, S. Spielberg, M. Weber, D. Albrecht-Eckardt, M. Blass, R. Claus, D. Barz, K. Scherlach, C. Hertweck, J. Loffler, Kerstin Hünniger, Oliver Kurzai

Date Published: 19th Mar 2015

Journal: MBio

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