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)

Carcinoembryonic antigen-related cell adhesion molecule 1 (CEACAM1, CD66a) is a receptor for Candida albicans. It is crucial for the immune response of intestinal epithelial cells to this opportunistic pathogen. Moreover, CEACAM1 is of importance for the mucosal colonization by different bacterial pathogens. We therefore studied the influence of the human CEACAM1 receptor in human CEACAM1-transgenic mice on the C. albicans colonization and infection utilizing a colonization/dissemination and a systemic infection mouse model. Our results showed no alterations in the host response between the transgenic mice and the wild-type littermates to the C. albicans infections. Both mouse strains showed comparable C. albicans colonization and mycobiota, similar fungal burdens in various organs, and a similar survival in the systemic infection model. Interestingly, some of the mice treated with anti-bacterial antibiotics (to prepare them for C. albicans colonization via oral infection) also showed a strong reduction in endogenous fungi instead of the normally observed increase in fungal numbers. This was independent of the expression of human CEACAM1. In the systemic infection model, the human CEACAM1 expression was differentially regulated in the kidneys and livers of Candida-infected transgenic mice. Notably, in the kidneys, a total loss of the largest human CEACAM1 isoform was observed. However, the overwhelming immune response induced in the systemic infection model likely covered any CEACAM1-specific effects in the transgenic animals. In vitro studies using bone marrow-derived neutrophils from both mouse strains also revealed no differences in their reaction to C. albicans. In conclusion, in contrast to bacterial pathogens interacting with CEACAM1 on different mucosal surfaces, the human CEACAM1-transgenic mice did not reveal a role of human CEACAM1 in the in vivo candidiasis models used here. Further studies and different approaches will be needed to reveal a putative role of CEACAM1 in the host response to C. albicans.

Authors: Esther Klaile, M. M. Muller, C. Zubiria-Barrera, S. Brehme, Tilman Klassert, M. Stock, A. Durotin, T. D. Nguyen, S. Feer, B. B. Singer, Peter Zipfel, Sven Rudolphi, Ilse Jacobsen, Hortense Slevogt

Date Published: 19th Dec 2019

Journal: Front Microbiol

Abstract (Expand)

Pathogenic microorganisms entail enormous problems for humans, livestock, and crop plants. A better understanding of the different infection strategies of the pathogens enables us to derive optimal treatments to mitigate infectious diseases or develop vaccinations preventing the occurrence of infections altogether. In this review, we highlight the current trends in mathematical modeling approaches and related methods used for understanding host-pathogen interactions. Since these interactions can be described on vastly different temporal and spatial scales as well as abstraction levels, a variety of computational and mathematical approaches are presented. Particular emphasis is placed on dynamic optimization, game theory, and spatial modeling, as they are attracting more and more interest in systems biology. Furthermore, these approaches are often combined to illuminate the complexities of the interactions between pathogens and their host. We also discuss the phenomena of molecular mimicry and crypsis as well as the interplay between defense and counter defense. As a conclusion, we provide an overview of method characteristics to assist non-experts in their decision for modeling approaches and interdisciplinary understanding.

Authors: Jan Ewald, Patricia Sieber, R. Garde, S. N. Lang, Stefan Schuster, B. Ibrahim

Date Published: 30th Nov 2019

Journal: Cell Mol Life Sci

Abstract (Expand)

Persistent inflammation is a hallmark of many human diseases, including anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis (AAV) and atherosclerosis. Here, we describe a dominant trigger of inflammation: human serum factor H-related protein FHR1. In vitro, this protein selectively binds to necrotic cells via its N-terminus; in addition, it binds near necrotic glomerular sites of AAV patients and necrotic areas in atherosclerotic plaques. FHR1, but not factor H, FHR2 or FHR3 strongly induces inflammasome NLRP3 in blood-derived human monocytes, which subsequently secrete IL-1beta, TNFalpha, IL-18 and IL-6. FHR1 triggers the phospholipase C-pathway via the G-protein coupled receptor EMR2 independent of complement. Moreover, FHR1 concentrations of AAV patients negatively correlate with glomerular filtration rates and associate with the levels of inflammation and progressive disease. These data highlight an unexpected role for FHR1 during sterile inflammation, may explain why FHR1-deficiency protects against certain diseases, and identifies potential targets for treatment of auto-inflammatory diseases.

Authors: Sarah Irmscher, S. R. Brix, Peter Zipfel, Luke Donald Halder, S. Mutluturk, S. Wulf, E. Girdauskas, H. Reichenspurner, R. A. K. Stahl, Berit Jungnickel, T. Wiech, Peter Zipfel, Christine Skerka

Date Published: 4th Jul 2019

Journal: Nat Commun

Abstract (Expand)

UNLABELLED: Single-celled organisms have different strategies to sense and utilize nutrients in their ever-changing environments. The opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans is a common member of the human microbiota, especially that of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. An important question concerns how C. albicans gained a competitive advantage over other microbes to become a successful commensal and opportunistic pathogen. Here, we report that C. albicans uses N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc), an abundant carbon source present in the GI tract, as a signal for nutrient availability. When placed in water, C. albicans cells normally enter the G0 phase and remain viable for weeks. However, they quickly lose viability when cultured in water containing only GlcNAc. We term this phenomenon GlcNAc-induced cell death (GICD). GlcNAc triggers the upregulation of ribosomal biogenesis genes, alterations of mitochondrial metabolism, and the accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), followed by rapid cell death via both apoptotic and necrotic mechanisms. Multiple pathways, including the conserved cyclic AMP (cAMP) signaling and GlcNAc catabolic pathways, are involved in GICD. GlcNAc acts as a signaling molecule to regulate multiple cellular programs in a coordinated manner and therefore maximizes the efficiency of nutrient use. This adaptive behavior allows C. albicans' more efficient colonization of the gut. IMPORTANCE: The ability to rapidly and appropriately respond to nutrients in the environment is crucial to free-living microorganisms. To maximize the use of available nutrients, microorganisms often use a limiting nutritional component as a signal to coordinate multiple biological processes. The human fungal pathogen Candida albicans uses N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) as a signal for the availability of external nutrient resources. GlcNAc induces rapid cell death in C. albicans due to the constitutive activation of oxidative metabolism and accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and multiple pathways are involved in its regulation. This study sheds light on the mechanisms of niche specialization of pathogenic fungi and raises the possibility that this cell death pathway could be an unexplored therapeutic target.

Authors: H. Du, G. Guan, X. Li, M. Gulati, L. Tao, C. Cao, A. D. Johnson, C. J. Nobile, G. Huang

Date Published: 10th Sep 2015

Journal: MBio

Abstract (Expand)

In this work, we investigate optimality principles behind synthesis strategies for protein complexes using a dynamic optimization approach. We show that the cellular capacity of protein synthesis has a strong influence on optimal synthesis strategies reaching from a simultaneous to a sequential synthesis of the subunits of a protein complex. Sequential synthesis is preferred if protein synthesis is strongly limited, whereas a simultaneous synthesis is optimal in situations with a high protein synthesis capacity. We confirm the predictions of our optimization approach through the analysis of the operonic organization of protein complexes in several hundred prokaryotes. Thereby, we are able to show that cellular protein synthesis capacity is a driving force in the dissolution of operons comprising the subunits of a protein complex. Thus, we also provide a tested hypothesis explaining why the subunits of many prokaryotic protein complexes are distributed across several operons despite the presumably less precise co-regulation.

Authors: Jan Ewald, M. Kotzing, M. Bartl, Christoph Kaleta

Date Published: 1st May 2015

Journal: Metabolites

Abstract (Expand)

Candida albicans is the most important fungal pathogen of humans, causing severe infections, especially in nosocomial and immunocompromised settings. However, it is also the most prevalent fungus of the normal human microbiome, where it shares its habitat with hundreds of trillions of other microbial cells. Despite weak organic acids (WOAs) being among the most abundant metabolites produced by bacterial microbiota, little is known about their effect on C. albicans. Here we used a sequencing-based profiling strategy to systematically investigate the transcriptional stress response of C. albicans to lactic, acetic, propionic, and butyric acid at several time points after treatment. Our data reveal a complex transcriptional response, with individual WOAs triggering unique gene expression profiles and with important differences between acute and chronic exposure. Despite these dissimilarities, we found significant overlaps between the gene expression changes induced by each WOA, which led us to uncover a core transcriptional response that was largely unrelated to other previously published C. albicans transcriptional stress responses. Genes commonly up-regulated by WOAs were enriched in several iron transporters, which was associated with an overall decrease in intracellular iron concentrations. Moreover, chronic exposure to any WOA lead to down-regulation of RNA synthesis and ribosome biogenesis genes, which resulted in significant reduction of total RNA levels and of ribosomal RNA in particular. In conclusion, this study suggests that gastrointestinal microbiota might directly influence C. albicans physiology via production of WOAs, with possible implications of how this fungus interacts with its host in both health and disease.

Authors: F. Cottier, A. S. Tan, J. Chen, J. Lum, F. Zolezzi, M. Poidinger, N. Pavelka

Date Published: 1st Feb 2015

Journal: G3 (Bethesda)

Abstract (Expand)

BACKGROUND: Although Candida albicans and Candida dubliniensis are most closely related, both species behave significantly different with respect to morphogenesis and virulence. In order to gain further insight into the divergent routes for morphogenetic adaptation in both species, we investigated qualitative along with quantitative differences in the transcriptomes of both organisms by cDNA deep sequencing. RESULTS: Following genome-associated assembly of sequence reads we were able to generate experimentally verified databases containing 6016 and 5972 genes for C. albicans and C. dubliniensis, respectively. About 95% of the transcriptionally active regions (TARs) contain open reading frames while the remaining TARs most likely represent non-coding RNAs. Comparison of our annotations with publically available gene models for C. albicans and C. dubliniensis confirmed approximately 95% of already predicted genes, but also revealed so far unknown novel TARs in both species. Qualitative cross-species analysis of these databases revealed in addition to 5802 orthologs also 399 and 49 species-specific protein coding genes for C. albicans and C. dubliniensis, respectively. Furthermore, quantitative transcriptional profiling using RNA-Seq revealed significant differences in the expression of orthologs across both species. We defined a core subset of 84 hyphal-specific genes required for both species, as well as a set of 42 genes that seem to be specifically induced during hyphal morphogenesis in C. albicans. CONCLUSIONS: Species-specific adaptation in C. albicans and C. dubliniensis is governed by individual genetic repertoires but also by altered regulation of conserved orthologs on the transcriptional level.

Authors: C. Grumaz, S. Lorenz, P. Stevens, E. Lindemann, U. Schock, J. Retey, S. Rupp, K. Sohn

Date Published: 4th Apr 2013

Journal: BMC Genomics

Abstract (Expand)

Fungi produce a multitude of low-molecular-mass compounds known as secondary metabolites, which have roles in a range of cellular processes such as transcription, development and intercellular communication. In addition, many of these compounds now have important applications, for instance, as antibiotics or immunosuppressants. Genome mining efforts indicate that the capability of fungi to produce secondary metabolites has been substantially underestimated because many of the fungal secondary metabolite biosynthesis gene clusters are silent under standard cultivation conditions. In this Review, I describe our current understanding of the regulatory elements that modulate the transcription of genes involved in secondary metabolism. I also discuss how an improved knowledge of these regulatory elements will ultimately lead to a better understanding of the physiological and ecological functions of these important compounds and will pave the way for a novel avenue to drug discovery through targeted activation of silent gene clusters.

Author: Axel A Brakhage

Date Published: 26th Nov 2012

Journal: Nat. Rev. Microbiol.

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