Abstract (Expand)

The healthy state of an organism is constantly threatened by external cues. Due to the daily inhalation of hundreds of particles and pathogens, the immune system needs to constantly accomplish the task of pathogen clearance in order to maintain this healthy state. However, infection dynamics are highly influenced by the peculiar anatomy of the human lung. Lung alveoli that are packed in alveolar sacs are interconnected by so called Pores of Kohn. Mainly due to the lack of in vivo methods, the role of Pores of Kohn in the mammalian lung is still under debate and partly contradicting hypotheses remain to be investigated. Although it was shown by electron microscopy that Pores of Kohn may serve as passageways for immune cells, their impact on the infection dynamics in the lung is still unknown under in vivo conditions. In the present study, we apply a hybrid agent-based infection model to quantitatively compare three different scenarios and discuss the importance of Pores of Kohn during infections of Aspergillus fumigatus. A. fumigatus is an airborne opportunistic fungus with rising incidences causing severe infections in immunocompromised patients that are associated with high mortality rates. Our hybrid agent-based model incorporates immune cell dynamics of alveolar macrophages - the resident phagocytes in the lung - as well as molecular dynamics of diffusing chemokines that attract alveolar macrophages to the site of infection. Consequently, this model allows a quantitative comparison of three different scenarios and to study the importance of Pores of Kohn. This enables us to demonstrate how passaging of alveolar macrophages and chemokine diffusion affect A. fumigatus infection dynamics. We show that Pores of Kohn alter important infection clearance mechanisms, such as the spatial distribution of macrophages and the effect of chemokine signaling. However, despite these differences, a lack of passageways for alveolar macrophages does impede infection clearance only to a minor extend. Furthermore, we quantify the importance of recruited macrophages in comparison to resident macrophages.

Authors: M. Blickensdorf, Sandra Timme, Marc Thilo Figge

Date Published: 9th Sep 2020

Journal: Front Microbiol

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)

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)

Host-fungus interactions have gained a lot of interest in the past few decades, mainly due to an increasing number of fungal infections that are often associated with a high mortality rate in the absence of effective therapies. These interactions can be studied at the genetic level or at the functional level via imaging. Here, we introduce a new image processing method that quantifies the interaction between host cells and fungal invaders, for example, alveolar macrophages and the conidia of Aspergillus fumigatus. The new technique relies on the information content of transmitted light bright field microscopy images, utilizing the Hessian matrix eigenvalues to distinguish between unstained macrophages and the background, as well as between macrophages and fungal conidia. The performance of the new algorithm was measured by comparing the results of our method with that of an alternative approach that was based on fluorescence images from the same dataset. The comparison shows that the new algorithm performs very similarly to the fluorescence-based version. Consequently, the new algorithm is able to segment and characterize unlabeled cells, thus reducing the time and expense that would be spent on the fluorescent labeling in preparation for phagocytosis assays. By extending the proposed method to the label-free segmentation of fungal conidia, we will be able to reduce the need for fluorescence-based imaging even further. Our approach should thus help to minimize the possible side effects of fluorescence labeling on biological functions. (c) 2017 International Society for Advancement of Cytometry.

Authors: Z. Cseresnyes, Kaswara Kraibooj, Marc Thilo Figge

Date Published: 16th Sep 2017

Journal: Cytometry A

Abstract (Expand)

Helicobacter pylori specifically colonizes the human gastric epithelium and is the major causative agent for ulcer disease and gastric cancer development. Here, we identify members of the carcinoembryonic antigen-related cell adhesion molecule (CEACAM) family as receptors of H. pylori and show that HopQ is the surface-exposed adhesin that specifically binds human CEACAM1, CEACAM3, CEACAM5 and CEACAM6. HopQ-CEACAM binding is glycan-independent and targeted to the N-domain. H. pylori binding induces CEACAM1-mediated signalling, and the HopQ-CEACAM1 interaction enables translocation of the virulence factor CagA into host cells and enhances the release of pro-inflammatory mediators such as interleukin-8. Based on the crystal structure of HopQ, we found that a beta-hairpin insertion (HopQ-ID) in HopQ's extracellular 3+4 helix bundle domain is important for CEACAM binding. A peptide derived from this domain competitively inhibits HopQ-mediated activation of the Cag virulence pathway, as genetic or antibody-mediated abrogation of the HopQ function shows. Together, our data suggest the HopQ-CEACAM1 interaction to be a potentially promising novel therapeutic target to combat H. pylori-associated diseases.

Authors: A. Javaheri, T. Kruse, K. Moonens, R. Mejias-Luque, A. Debraekeleer, C. I. Asche, N. Tegtmeyer, B. Kalali, N. C. Bach, S. A. Sieber, D. J. Hill, V. Koniger, C. R. Hauck, R. Moskalenko, R. Haas, D. H. Busch, Esther Klaile, Hortense Slevogt, A. Schmidt, S. Backert, H. Remaut, B. B. Singer, M. Gerhard

Date Published: 18th Oct 2016

Journal: Nat Microbiol

Abstract (Expand)

Organisms constantly interact with other species through physical contact which leads to changes on the molecular level, for example the transcriptome. These changes can be monitored for all genes, with the help of high-throughput experiments such as RNA-seq or microarrays. The adaptation of the gene expression to environmental changes within cells is mediated through complex gene regulatory networks. Often, our knowledge of these networks is incomplete. Network inference predicts gene regulatory interactions based on transcriptome data. An emerging application of high-throughput transcriptome studies are dual transcriptomics experiments. Here, the transcriptome of two or more interacting species is measured simultaneously. Based on a dual RNA-seq data set of murine dendritic cells infected with the fungal pathogen Candida albicans, the software tool NetGenerator was applied to predict an inter-species gene regulatory network. To promote further investigations of molecular inter-species interactions, we recently discussed dual RNA-seq experiments for host-pathogen interactions and extended the applied tool NetGenerator (Schulze et al., 2015). The updated version of NetGenerator makes use of measurement variances in the algorithmic procedure and accepts gene expression time series data with missing values. Additionally, we tested multiple modeling scenarios regarding the stimuli functions of the gene regulatory network. Here, we summarize the work by Schulze et al. (2015) and put it into a broader context. We review various studies making use of the dual transcriptomics approach to investigate the molecular basis of interacting species. Besides the application to host-pathogen interactions, dual transcriptomics data are also utilized to study mutualistic and commensalistic interactions. Furthermore, we give a short introduction into additional approaches for the prediction of gene regulatory networks and discuss their application to dual transcriptomics data. We conclude that the application of network inference on dual-transcriptomics data is a promising approach to predict molecular inter-species interactions.

Authors: Sylvie Schulze, J. Schleicher, Reinhard Guthke, Jörg Linde

Date Published: 31st Mar 2016

Journal: Front Microbiol

Abstract (Expand)

The diploid, polymorphic yeast Candida albicans is one of the most important human pathogenic fungi. C. albicans can grow, proliferate and coexist as a commensal on or within the human host for a long time. However, alterations in the host environment can render C. albicans virulent. In this review, we describe the immunological cross-talk between C. albicans and the human innate immune system. We give an overview in form of pairs of human defense strategies including immunological mechanisms as well as general stressors such as nutrient limitation, pH, fever etc. and the corresponding fungal response and evasion mechanisms. Furthermore, Computational Systems Biology approaches to model and investigate these complex interactions are highlighted with a special focus on game-theoretical methods and agent-based models. An outlook on interesting questions to be tackled by Systems Biology regarding entangled defense and evasion mechanisms is given.

Authors: Sybille Dühring, S. Germerodt, Christine Skerka, Peter Zipfel, Thomas Dandekar, Stefan Schuster

Date Published: 30th Jun 2015

Journal: Front Microbiol

Abstract (Expand)

Fungal infections have increased dramatically in the last 2 decades, and fighting infectious diseases requires innovative approaches such as the combination of two drugs acting on different targets or even targeting a salvage pathway of one of the drugs. The fungal cell wall biosynthesis is inhibited by the clinically used antifungal drug caspofungin. This antifungal activity has been found to be potentiated by humidimycin, a new natural product identified from the screening of a collection of 20,000 microbial extracts, which has no major effect when used alone. An analysis of transcriptomes and selected Aspergillus fumigatus mutants indicated that humidimycin affects the high osmolarity glycerol response pathway. By combining humidimycin and caspofungin, a strong increase in caspofungin efficacy was achieved, demonstrating that targeting different signaling pathways provides an excellent basis to develop novel anti-infective strategies.

Authors: Vito Valiante, M. C. Monteiro, J. Martin, R. Altwasser, N. El Aouad, I. Gonzalez, Olaf Kniemeyer, E. Mellado, S. Palomo, N. de Pedro, I. Perez-Victoria, J. R. Tormo, F. Vicente, F. Reyes, O. Genilloud, Axel Brakhage

Date Published: 8th Jun 2015

Journal: Antimicrob Agents Chemother

Abstract (Expand)

Candida albicans is a major cause of bloodstream infection which may present as sepsis and septic shock - major causes of morbidity and mortality world-wide. After invasion of the pathogen, innate mechanisms govern the early response. Here, we outline the models used to study these mechanisms and summarize our current understanding of innate immune responses during Candida bloodstream infection. This includes protective immunity as well as harmful responses resulting in Candida induced sepsis. Neutrophilic granulocytes are considered principal effector cells conferring protection and recognize C. albicans mainly via complement receptor 3. They possess a range of effector mechanisms, contributing to elimination of the pathogen. Neutrophil activation is closely linked to complement and modulated by activated mononuclear cells. A thorough understanding of these mechanisms will help in creating an individualized approach to patients suffering from systemic candidiasis and aid in optimizing clinical management.

Authors: S. Duggan, I. Leonhardt, Kerstin Hünniger, Oliver Kurzai

Date Published: 18th Mar 2015

Journal: Virulence


Not specified

Authors: D. H. Scharf, T. Heinekamp, Axel Brakhage

Date Published: 30th Jan 2014

Journal: PLoS Pathog

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)

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

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