Publications

Abstract (Expand)

Aspergillus fumigatus is a common airborne fungal pathogen of humans and a significant source of mortality in immunocompromised individuals. Here, we provide the most extensive cell wall proteome profiling to date of A. fumigatus resting conidia, the fungal morphotype pertinent to first contact with the host. Using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS), we identified proteins within the conidial cell wall by hydrogen-fluoride (HF)-pyridine extraction and proteins exposed on the surface using a trypsin-shaving approach. One protein, designated conidial cell wall protein A (CcpA), was identified by both methods and was found to be nearly as abundant as hydrophobic rodlet layer-forming protein RodA. CcpA, an amphiphilic protein, like RodA, peaks in expression during sporulation on resting conidia. Despite high cell wall abundance, the cell surface structure of DeltaccpA resting conidia appeared normal. However, trypsin shaving of DeltaccpA conidia revealed novel surface-exposed proteins not detected on conidia of the wild-type strain. Interestingly, the presence of swollen DeltaccpA conidia led to higher activation of neutrophils and dendritic cells than was seen with wild-type conidia and caused significantly less damage to epithelial cells in vitro In addition, virulence was highly attenuated when cortisone-treated, immunosuppressed mice were infected with DeltaccpA conidia. CcpA-specific memory T cell responses were detectable in healthy human donors naturally exposed to A. fumigatus conidia, suggesting a role for CcpA as a structural protein impacting conidial immunogenicity rather than possessing a protein-intrinsic immunosuppressive effect. Together, these data suggest that CcpA serves as a conidial stealth protein by altering the conidial surface structure to minimize innate immune recognition.IMPORTANCE The mammalian immune system relies on recognition of pathogen surface antigens for targeting and clearance. In the absence of immune evasion strategies, pathogen clearance is rapid. In the case of Aspergillus fumigatus, the successful fungus must avoid phagocytosis in the lung to establish invasive infection. In healthy individuals, fungal spores are cleared by immune cells; however, in immunocompromised patients, clearance mechanisms are impaired. Here, using proteome analyses, we identified CcpA as an important fungal spore protein involved in pathogenesis. A. fumigatus lacking CcpA was more susceptible to immune recognition and prompt eradication and, consequently, exhibited drastically attenuated virulence. In infection studies, CcpA was required for virulence in infected immunocompromised mice, suggesting that it could be used as a possible immunotherapeutic or diagnostic target in the future. In summary, our report adds a protein to the list of those known to be critical to the complex fungal spore surface environment and, more importantly, identifies a protein important for conidial immunogenicity during infection.

Authors: V. Voltersen, M. G. Blango, S. Herrmann, F. Schmidt, Thorsten Heinekamp, M. Strassburger, Thomas Krüger, P. Bacher, Jasmin Lother, Esther Weiß, Kerstin Hünniger, H. Liu, P. Hortschansky, A. Scheffold, Jürgen Löffler, S. Krappmann, S. Nietzsche, Oliver Kurzai, Hermann Einsele, Olaf Kniemeyer, S. G. Filler, U. Reichard, Axel Brakhage

Date Published: No date defined

Journal: MBio

Abstract (Expand)

Filamentous fungi of the genus Aspergillus are of particular interest for biotechnological applications due to their natural capacity to secrete carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZy) that target plant biomass. The presence of easily metabolizable sugars such as glucose, whose concentrations increase during plant biomass hydrolysis, results in the repression of CAZy-encoding genes in a process known as carbon catabolite repression (CCR), which is undesired for the purpose of large-scale enzyme production. To date, the C2H2 transcription factor CreA has been described as the major CC repressor in Aspergillus spp., although little is known about the role of posttranslational modifications in this process. In this work, phosphorylation sites were identified by mass spectrometry on Aspergillus nidulans CreA, and subsequently, the previously identified but uncharacterized site S262, the characterized site S319, and the newly identified sites S268 and T308 were chosen to be mutated to nonphosphorylatable residues before their effect on CCR was investigated. Sites S262, S268, and T308 are important for CreA protein accumulation and cellular localization, DNA binding, and repression of enzyme activities. In agreement with a previous study, site S319 was not important for several here-tested phenotypes but is key for CreA degradation and induction of enzyme activities. All sites were shown to be important for glycogen and trehalose metabolism. This study highlights the importance of CreA phosphorylation sites for the regulation of CCR. These sites are interesting targets for biotechnological strain engineering without the need to delete essential genes, which could result in undesired side effects.IMPORTANCE In filamentous fungi, the transcription factor CreA controls carbohydrate metabolism through the regulation of genes encoding enzymes required for the use of alternative carbon sources. In this work, phosphorylation sites were identified on Aspergillus nidulans CreA, and subsequently, the two newly identified sites S268 and T308, the previously identified but uncharacterized site S262, and the previously characterized site S319 were chosen to be mutated to nonphosphorylatable residues before their effect on CCR was characterized. Sites S262, S268, and T308 are important for CreA protein accumulation and cellular localization, DNA binding, and repression of enzyme activities. In agreement with a previous study, site S319 is not important for several here-tested phenotypes but is key for CreA degradation and induction of enzyme activities. This work characterized novel CreA phosphorylation sites under carbon catabolite-repressing conditions and showed that they are crucial for CreA protein turnover, control of carbohydrate utilization, and biotechnologically relevant enzyme production.

Authors: L. J. de Assis, L. P. Silva, O. Bayram, P. Dowling, Olaf Kniemeyer, Thomas Krüger, Axel Brakhage, Y. Chen, L. Dong, K. Tan, K. H. Wong, L. N. A. Ries, G. H. Goldman

Date Published: 5th Jan 2021

Journal: mBio

Abstract (Expand)

Mucormycosis is an emergent, fatal fungal infection of humans and warm-blooded animals caused by species of the order Mucorales. Immune cells of the innate immune system serve as the first line of defence against inhaled spores. Alveolar macrophages were challenged with the mucoralean fungus Lichtheimia corymbifera and subjected to biotinylation and streptavidin enrichment procedures followed by LC-MS/MS analyses. A total of 28 host proteins enriched for binding to macrophage-L. corymbifera interaction. Among those, the HSP70-family protein Hspa8 was found to be predominantly responsive to living and heat-killed spores of a virulent and an attenuated strain of L. corymbifera. Confocal scanning laser microscopy of infected macrophages revealed colocalization of Hspa8 with phagocytosed spores of L. corymbifera. The amount of detectable Hspa8 was dependent on the multiplicity of infection. Incubation of alveolar macrophages with an anti-Hspa8 antibody prior to infection reduced their capability to phagocytose spores of L. corymbifera. In contrast, anti-Hspa8 antibodies did not abrogate the phagocytosis of Aspergillus fumigatus conidia by macrophages. These results suggest an important contribution of the heat-shock family protein Hspa8 in the recognition of spores of the mucoralean fungus L. corymbifera by host alveolar macrophages and define a potential immunomodulatory therapeutic target.

Authors: M. I. A. Hassan, J. M. Kruse, Thomas Krüger, H. M. Dahse, Z. Cseresnyes, M. G. Blango, Hortense Slevogt, F. Horhold, V. Ast, R. Konig, Marc Thilo Figge, Olaf Kniemeyer, Axel Brakhage, Kerstin Voigt

Date Published: 26th Jun 2020

Journal: Environ Microbiol

Abstract (Expand)

Extracellular vesicles have an important function in cellular communication. Here, we show that human and mouse monocytes release TGF-beta1-transporting vesicles in response to the pathogenic fungus Candida albicans. Soluble beta-glucan from C. albicans binds to complement receptor 3 (CR3, also known as CD11b/CD18) on monocytes and induces the release of TGF-beta1-transporting vesicles. CR3-dependence is demonstrated using CR3-deficient (CD11b knockout) monocytes generated by CRISPR-CAS9 genome editing and isolated from CR3-deficient (CD11b knockout) mice. These vesicles reduce the pro-inflammatory response in human M1-macrophages as well as in whole blood. Binding of the vesicle-transported TGF-beta1 to the TGF-beta receptor inhibits IL1B transcription via the SMAD7 pathway in whole blood and induces TGFB1 transcription in endothelial cells, which is resolved upon TGF-beta1 inhibition. Notably, human complement-opsonized apoptotic bodies induce production of similar TGF-beta1-transporting vesicles in monocytes, suggesting that the early immune response might be suppressed through this CR3-dependent anti-inflammatory vesicle pathway.

Authors: Luke Donald Halder, E. A. H. Jo, M. Z. Hasan, M. Ferreira-Gomes, Thomas Krüger, M. Westermann, D. I. Palme, G. Rambach, Niklas Beyersdorf, C. Speth, Ilse Jacobsen, Olaf Kniemeyer, Berit Jungnickel, Peter Zipfel, Christine Skerka

Date Published: 11th May 2020

Journal: Nat Commun

Abstract (Expand)

Fungal spores and hyphal fragments play an important role as allergens in respiratory diseases. In this study, we performed trypsin shaving and secretome analyses to identify the surface-exposed proteins and secreted/shed proteins of Aspergillus fumigatus conidia, respectively. We investigated the surface proteome under different conditions, including temperature variation and germination. We found that the surface proteome of resting A. fumigatus conidia is not static but instead unexpectedly dynamic, as evidenced by drastically different surface proteomes under different growth conditions. Knockouts of two abundant A. fumigatus surface proteins, ScwA and CweA, were found to function only in fine-tuning the cell wall stress response, implying that the conidial surface is very robust against perturbations. We then compared the surface proteome of A. fumigatus to other allergy-inducing molds, including Alternaria alternata, Penicillium rubens, and Cladosporium herbarum, and performed comparative proteomics on resting and swollen conidia, as well as secreted proteins from germinating conidia. We detected 125 protein ortholog groups, including 80 with putative catalytic activity, in the extracellular region of all four molds, and 42 nonorthologous proteins produced solely by A. fumigatus. Ultimately, this study highlights the dynamic nature of the A. fumigatus conidial surface and provides targets for future diagnostics and immunotherapy.

Authors: M. G. Blango, A. Pschibul, Flora Rivieccio, Thomas Krüger, M. Rafiq, L. J. Jia, T. Zheng, M. Goldmann, V. Voltersen, J. Li, Gianni Panagiotou, Olaf Kniemeyer, Axel Brakhage

Date Published: 1st May 2020

Journal: J Proteome Res

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)

Polymorphonuclear granulocytes (PMNs) are indispensable for controlling life-threatening fungal infections. In addition to various effector mechanisms, PMNs also produce extracellular vesicles (EVs). Their contribution to antifungal defense has remained unexplored. We reveal that the clinically important human-pathogenic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus triggers PMNs to release a distinct set of antifungal EVs (afEVs). Proteome analyses indicated that afEVs are enriched in antimicrobial proteins. The cargo and the release kinetics of EVs are modulated by the fungal strain confronted. Tracking of afEVs indicated that they associated with fungal cells and even entered fungal hyphae, resulting in alterations in the morphology of the fungal cell wall and dose-dependent antifungal effects. To assess as a proof of concept whether the antimicrobial proteins found in afEVs might contribute to growth inhibition of hyphae when present in the fungal cytoplasm, two human proteins enriched in afEVs, cathepsin G and azurocidin, were heterologously expressed in fungal hyphae. This led to reduced fungal growth relative to that of a control strain producing the human retinol binding protein 7. In conclusion, extracellular vesicles produced by neutrophils in response to A. fumigatus infection are able to associate with the fungus, limit growth, and elicit cell damage by delivering antifungal cargo. This finding offers an intriguing, previously overlooked mechanism of antifungal defense against A. fumigatus IMPORTANCE Invasive fungal infections caused by the mold Aspergillus fumigatus are a growing concern in the clinic due to the increasing use of immunosuppressive therapies and increasing antifungal drug resistance. These infections result in high rates of mortality, as treatment and diagnostic options remain limited. In healthy individuals, neutrophilic granulocytes are critical for elimination of A. fumigatus from the host; however, the exact extracellular mechanism of neutrophil-mediated antifungal activity remains unresolved. Here, we present a mode of antifungal defense employed by human neutrophils against A. fumigatus not previously described. We found that extracellular vesicles produced by neutrophils in response to A. fumigatus infection are able to associate with the fungus, limit growth, and elicit cell damage by delivering antifungal cargo. In the end, antifungal extracellular vesicle biology provides a significant step forward in our understanding of A. fumigatus host pathogenesis and opens up novel diagnostic and therapeutic possibilities.

Authors: Iordana Shopova, I. Belyaev, Prasad Dasari, S. Jahreis, M. C. Stroe, Z. Cseresnyes, Ann-Kathrin Zimmermann, A. Medyukhina, Carl-Magnus Svensson, Thomas Krüger, V. Szeifert, S. Nietzsche, Theresia Conrad, M. G. Blango, Olaf Kniemeyer, M. von Lilienfeld-Toal, Peter Zipfel, E. Ligeti, Marc Thilo Figge, Axel Brakhage

Date Published: 14th Apr 2020

Journal: mBio

Abstract (Expand)

PURPOSE: The heterogeneity of squamous cell carcinoma tissue greatly complicates diagnosis and individualized therapy. Therefore, characterizing the heterogeneity of tissue spatially and identifying appropriate biomarkers is crucial. MALDI-MS imaging (MSI) is capable of analyzing spatially resolved tissue biopsies on a molecular level. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: MALDI-MSI is used on snap frozen and formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue samples from patients with head and neck cancer (HNC) to analyze m/z values localized in tumor and nontumor regions. Peptide identification is performed using LC-MS/MS and immunohistochemistry (IHC). RESULTS: In both FFPE and frozen tissue specimens, eight characteristic masses of the tumor's epithelial region are found. Using LC-MS/MS, the peaks are identified as vimentin, keratin type II, nucleolin, heat shock protein 90, prelamin-A/C, junction plakoglobin, and PGAM1. Lastly, vimentin, nucleolin, and PGAM1 are verified with IHC. CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: The combination of MALDI-MSI, LC-MS/MS, and subsequent IHC furnishes a tool suitable for characterizing the molecular heterogeneity of tissue. It is also suited for use in identifying new representative biomarkers to enable a more individualized therapy.

Authors: Franziska Hoffmann, C. Umbreit, Thomas Krüger, D. Pelzel, G. Ernst, Olaf Kniemeyer, O. Guntinas-Lichius, A. Berndt, Ferdinand Von Eggeling

Date Published: 10th Nov 2018

Journal: Proteomics Clin Appl

Abstract (Expand)

Aspergillus fumigatus is a common airborne fungal pathogen of humans and a significant source of mortality in immunocompromised individuals. Here, we provide the most extensive cell wall proteome profiling to date of A. fumigatus resting conidia, the fungal morphotype pertinent to first contact with the host. Using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS), we identified proteins within the conidial cell wall by hydrogen-fluoride (HF)-pyridine extraction and proteins exposed on the surface using a trypsin-shaving approach. One protein, designated conidial cell wall protein A (CcpA), was identified by both methods and was found to be nearly as abundant as hydrophobic rodlet layer-forming protein RodA. CcpA, an amphiphilic protein, like RodA, peaks in expression during sporulation on resting conidia. Despite high cell wall abundance, the cell surface structure of DeltaccpA resting conidia appeared normal. However, trypsin shaving of DeltaccpA conidia revealed novel surface-exposed proteins not detected on conidia of the wild-type strain. Interestingly, the presence of swollen DeltaccpA conidia led to higher activation of neutrophils and dendritic cells than was seen with wild-type conidia and caused significantly less damage to epithelial cells in vitro In addition, virulence was highly attenuated when cortisone-treated, immunosuppressed mice were infected with DeltaccpA conidia. CcpA-specific memory T cell responses were detectable in healthy human donors naturally exposed to A. fumigatus conidia, suggesting a role for CcpA as a structural protein impacting conidial immunogenicity rather than possessing a protein-intrinsic immunosuppressive effect. Together, these data suggest that CcpA serves as a conidial stealth protein by altering the conidial surface structure to minimize innate immune recognition.IMPORTANCE The mammalian immune system relies on recognition of pathogen surface antigens for targeting and clearance. In the absence of immune evasion strategies, pathogen clearance is rapid. In the case of Aspergillus fumigatus, the successful fungus must avoid phagocytosis in the lung to establish invasive infection. In healthy individuals, fungal spores are cleared by immune cells; however, in immunocompromised patients, clearance mechanisms are impaired. Here, using proteome analyses, we identified CcpA as an important fungal spore protein involved in pathogenesis. A. fumigatus lacking CcpA was more susceptible to immune recognition and prompt eradication and, consequently, exhibited drastically attenuated virulence. In infection studies, CcpA was required for virulence in infected immunocompromised mice, suggesting that it could be used as a possible immunotherapeutic or diagnostic target in the future. In summary, our report adds a protein to the list of those known to be critical to the complex fungal spore surface environment and, more importantly, identifies a protein important for conidial immunogenicity during infection.

Authors: V. Voltersen, M. G. Blango, S. Herrmann, F. Schmidt, Thorsten Heinekamp, M. Strassburger, Thomas Krüger, P. Bacher, Jasmin Lother, Esther Weiß, Kerstin Hünniger, H. Liu, P. Hortschansky, A. Scheffold, Jürgen Löffler, S. Krappmann, S. Nietzsche, Oliver Kurzai, Hermann Einsele, Olaf Kniemeyer, S. G. Filler, U. Reichard, Axel Brakhage

Date Published: 2nd Oct 2018

Journal: mBio

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

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