The complement system is part of the innate immune system and plays an important role in the host defense against infectious pathogens. One of the main effects is the opsonization of foreign invaders … and subsequent uptake by phagocytosis. Due to the continuous default basal level of active complement molecules, a tight regulation is required to protect the body's own cells (self cells) from opsonization and from complement damage. A major complement regulator is Factor H, which is recruited from the fluid phase and attaches to cell surfaces where it effectively controls complement activation. Besides self cells, pathogens also have the ability to bind Factor H; they can thus escape opsonization and phagocytosis causing severe infections. In order to advance our understanding of the opsonization process at a quantitative level, we developed a mathematical model for the dynamics of the complement system-termed DynaCoSys model-that is based on ordinary differential equations for cell surface-bound molecules and on partial differential equations for concentration profiles of the fluid phase molecules in the environment of cells. This hybrid differential equation approach allows to model the complement cascade focusing on the role of active C3b in the fluid phase and on the cell surface as well as on its inactivation on the cell surface. The DynaCoSys model enables us to quantitatively predict the conditions under which Factor H mediated complement evasion occurs. Furthermore, investigating the quantitative impact of model parameters by a sensitivity analysis, we identify the driving processes of complement activation and regulation in both the self and non-self regime. The two regimes are defined by a critical Factor H concentration on the cell surface and we use the model to investigate the differential impact of complement model parameters on this threshold value. The dynamic modeling on the surface of pathogens are further relevant to understand pathophysiological situations where Factor H mutants and defective Factor H binding to target surfaces results in pathophysiology such as renal and retinal disease. In the future, this DynaCoSys model will be extended to also enable evaluating treatment strategies of complement-related diseases.
Date Published: 5th Oct 2020
Journal: Front Immunol
Quantitative Impact of Cell Membrane Fluorescence Labeling on Phagocytosis Measurements in Confrontation Assays.
Phagocytosis is series of steps where the pathogens and the immune cells interact during an invasion. This starts with the adhesion process between the host and pathogen cells, and is followed by the … engulfment of the pathogens. Many analytical methods that are applied to characterize phagocytosis based on imaging the host-pathogen confrontation assays rely on the fluorescence labeling of cells. However, the potential effect of the membrane labeling on the quantitative results of the confrontation assays has not been studied in detail. In this study, we determine whether the fluorescence labeling processes themselves influence the results of the phagocytosis measurements. Here, alveolar macrophages, which form one of the most important compartments of the innate immune system, were used as an example of host cells, whereas Aspergillus fumigatus and Lichtheimia corymbifera that cause aspergillosis and mucormycosis, respectively, were studied as examples for pathogens. At first, our study investigated the importance of the sequence of steps of the fixation process when preparing the confrontation assay sample for microscopy studies. Here we showed that applying the fixation agent before the counter-staining causes miscalculations during the determination of the phagocytic measures. Furthermore, we also found that staining the macrophages with various concentrations of DID, as a typical membrane label, in most cases altered the capability of macrophages to phagocytose FITC-stained A. fumigatus and L. corymbifera spores in comparison with unlabeled macrophages. This effect of the DID staining showed a differential character dependent upon the labeling status and the specific type of pathogen. Moreover, labeling the spores of A. fumigatus and L. corymbifera with FITC increased the phagocytic measures during confrontation with unlabeled macrophages when compared to label-free spores. Overall, our study confirms that the staining process itself may significantly manipulate the quantitative outcome of the confrontation assay. As a result of our study, we also developed a user-friendly image analysis tool that analyses confrontation assays both with and without fluorescence labeling of the host cells and of the pathogens. Our image analysis algorithm saves experimental work effort and time, provides more precise results when calculating the phagocytic measures, and delivers a convenient analysis tool for the biologists to monitor host-pathogen interactions as they happen without the artifacts that fluorescence labeling imposes on biological interactions.
Date Published: 26th Jun 2020
Journal: Front Microbiol
Quantitative Simulations Predict Treatment Strategies Against Fungal Infections in Virtual Neutropenic Patients.
The condition of neutropenia, i.e., a reduced absolute neutrophil count in blood, constitutes a major risk factor for severe infections in the affected patients. Candida albicans and Candida glabrata … are opportunistic pathogens and the most prevalent fungal species in the human microbiota. In immunocompromised patients, they can become pathogenic and cause infections with high mortality rates. In this study, we use a previously established approach that combines experiments and computational models to investigate the innate immune response during blood stream infections with the two fungal pathogens C. albicans and C. glabrata. First, we determine immune-reaction rates and migration parameters under healthy conditions. Based on these findings, we simulate virtual patients and investigate the impact of neutropenic conditions on the infection outcome with the respective pathogen. Furthermore, we perform in silico treatments of these virtual patients by simulating a medical treatment that enhances neutrophil activity in terms of phagocytosis and migration. We quantify the infection outcome by comparing the response to the two fungal pathogens relative to non-neutropenic individuals. The analysis reveals that these fungal infections in neutropenic patients can be successfully cleared by cytokine treatment of the remaining neutrophils; and that this treatment is more effective for C. glabrata than for C. albicans.
Date Published: 20th Apr 2018
Journal: Front Immunol