Publications

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)

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)

The opportunistic fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus can cause life-threatening infections, particularly in immunocompromised patients. Most pathogenic microbes control host innate immune responses at the earliest time, already before infiltrating host immune cells arrive at the site of infection. Here, we identify Aspf2 as the first A. fumigatus Factor H-binding protein. Aspf2 recruits several human plasma regulators, Factor H, factor-H-like protein 1 (FHL-1), FHR1, and plasminogen. Factor H contacts Aspf2 via two regions located in SCRs6-7 and SCR20. FHL-1 binds via SCRs6-7, and FHR1 via SCRs3-5. Factor H and FHL-1 attached to Aspf2-maintained cofactor activity and assisted in C3b inactivation. A Deltaaspf2 knockout strain was generated which bound Factor H with 28% and FHL-1 with 42% lower intensity. In agreement with less immune regulator acquisition, when challenged with complement-active normal human serum, Deltaaspf2 conidia had substantially more C3b (>57%) deposited on their surface. Consequently, Deltaaspf2 conidia were more efficiently phagocytosed (>20%) and killed (44%) by human neutrophils as wild-type conidia. Furthermore, Aspf2 recruited human plasminogen and, when activated by tissue-type plasminogen activator, newly generated plasmin cleaved the chromogenic substrate S2251 and degraded fibrinogen. Furthermore, plasmin attached to conidia damaged human lung epithelial cells, induced cell retraction, and caused matrix exposure. Thus, Aspf2 is a central immune evasion protein and plasminogen ligand of A. fumigatus. By blocking host innate immune attack and by disrupting human lung epithelial cell layers, Aspf2 assists in early steps of fungal infection and likely allows tissue penetration.

Authors: Prasad Dasari, Iordana Shopova, M. Stroe, D. Wartenberg, H. Martin-Dahse, Niklas Beyersdorf, P. Hortschansky, Stefanie Dietrich, Z. Cseresnyes, Marc Thilo Figge, M. Westermann, Christine Skerka, Axel Brakhage, Peter Zipfel

Date Published: 1st Sep 2018

Journal: Front Immunol

Abstract (Expand)

Studying the pathobiology of the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus has gained a lot of attention in recent years. This is due to the fact that this fungus is a human pathogen that can cause severe diseases, like invasive pulmonary aspergillosis in immunocompromised patients. Because alveolar macrophages belong to the first line of defense against the fungus, here, we conduct an image-based study on the host-pathogen interaction between murine alveolar macrophages and A. fumigatus. This is achieved by an automated image analysis approach that uses a combination of thresholding, watershed segmentation and feature-based object classification. In contrast to previous approaches, our algorithm allows for the segmentation of individual macrophages in the images and this enables us to compute the distribution of phagocytosed and macrophage-adherent conidia over all macrophages. The novel automated image-based analysis provides access to all cell-cell interactions in the assay and thereby represents a framework that enables comprehensive computation of diverse characteristic parameters and comparative investigation for different strains. We here apply automated image analysis to confocal laser scanning microscopy images of the two wild-type strains ATCC 46645 and CEA10 of A. fumigatus and investigate the ability of macrophages to phagocytose the respective conidia. It is found that the CEA10 strain triggers a stronger response of the macrophages as revealed by a higher phagocytosis ratio and a larger portion of the macrophages being active in the phagocytosis process.

Authors: K. Kraibooj, Hanno Schoeler, C. M. Svensson, Axel Brakhage, Marc Thilo Figge

Date Published: 9th Jun 2015

Journal: Front Microbiol

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

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