Publications

Abstract (Expand)

Burn wounds are highly susceptible sites for colonization and infection by bacteria and fungi. Large wound surface, impaired local immunity, and broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy support growth of opportunistic fungi such as Candida albicans, which may lead to invasive candidiasis. Currently, it remains unknown whether depressed host defenses or fungal virulence drive the progression of burn wound candidiasis. Here we established an ex vivo burn wound model, where wounds were inflicted by applying preheated soldering iron to human skin explants, resulting in highly reproducible deep second-degree burn wounds. Eschar removal by debridement allowed for deeper C. albicans penetration into the burned tissue associated with prominent filamentation. Active migration of resident tissue neutrophils towards the damaged tissue and release of pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-1beta accompanied the burn. The neutrophil recruitment was further increased upon supplementation of the model with fresh immune cells. Wound area and depth decreased over time, indicating healing of the damaged tissue. Importantly, prominent neutrophil presence at the infected site correlated to the limited penetration of C. albicans into the burned tissue. Altogether, we established a reproducible burn wound model of candidiasis using ex vivo human skin explants, where immune responses actively control the progression of infection and promote tissue healing.

Authors: C. von Muller, F. Bulman, L. Wagner, D. Rosenberger, A. Marolda, Oliver Kurzai, P. Eissmann, Ilse Jacobsen, B. Perner, P. Hemmerich, Slavena Vylkova

Date Published: 11th Dec 2020

Journal: Sci Rep

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)

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

Abstract (Expand)

Although morphological plasticity is a central virulence trait of Candida albicans, the number of filament-associated genes and the interplay of mechanisms regulating their expression remain unknown. By correlation-based network modeling of the transcriptional response to different defined external stimuli for morphogenesis we identified a set of eight genes with highly correlated expression patterns, forming a core filamentation response. This group of genes included ALS3, ECE1, HGT2, HWP1, IHD1 and RBT1 which are known or supposed to encode for cell- wall associated proteins as well as the Rac1 guanine nucleotide exchange factor encoding gene DCK1 and the unknown function open reading frame orf19.2457. The validity of network modeling was confirmed using a dataset of advanced complexity that describes the transcriptional response of C. albicans during epithelial invasion as well as comparing our results with other previously published transcriptome studies. Although the set of core filamentation response genes was quite small, several transcriptional regulators are involved in the control of their expression, depending on the environmental condition.

Authors: R. Martin, Daniela Albrecht-Eckardt, S. Brunke, Bernhard Hube, Kerstin Hünniger, Oliver Kurzai

Date Published: 14th Mar 2013

Journal: PLoS One

Abstract (Expand)

Despite their classical role as transcriptional repressors, several histone deacetylases, including the baker's yeast Set3/Hos2 complex (Set3C), facilitate gene expression. In the dimorphic human pathogen Candida albicans, the homologue of the Set3C inhibits the yeast-to-filament transition, but the precise molecular details of this function have remained elusive. Here, we use a combination of ChIP-Seq and RNA-Seq to show that the Set3C acts as a transcriptional co-factor of metabolic and morphogenesis-related genes in C. albicans. Binding of the Set3C correlates with gene expression during fungal morphogenesis; yet, surprisingly, deletion of SET3 leaves the steady-state expression level of most genes unchanged, both during exponential yeast-phase growth and during the yeast-filament transition. Fine temporal resolution of transcription in cells undergoing this transition revealed that the Set3C modulates transient expression changes of key morphogenesis-related genes. These include a transcription factor cluster comprising of NRG1, EFG1, BRG1, and TEC1, which form a regulatory circuit controlling hyphal differentiation. Set3C appears to restrict the factors by modulating their transcription kinetics, and the hyperfilamentous phenotype of SET3-deficient cells can be reverted by mutating the circuit factors. These results indicate that the chromatin status at coding regions represents a dynamic platform influencing transcription kinetics. Moreover, we suggest that transcription at the coding sequence can be transiently decoupled from potentially conflicting promoter information in dynamic environments.

Authors: D. Hnisz, A. F. Bardet, C. J. Nobile, A. Petryshyn, W. Glaser, U. Schock, A. Stark, K. Kuchler

Date Published: 14th Dec 2012

Journal: PLoS Genet

Abstract (Expand)

The ability to adapt to diverse micro-environmental challenges encountered within a host is of pivotal importance to the opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans. We have quantified C. albicans and M. musculus gene expression dynamics during phagocytosis by dendritic cells in a genome-wide, time-resolved analysis using simultaneous RNA-seq. A robust network inference map was generated from this dataset using NetGenerator, predicting novel interactions between the host and the pathogen. We experimentally verified predicted interdependent sub-networks comprising Hap3 in C. albicans, and Ptx3 and Mta2 in M. musculus. Remarkably, binding of recombinant Ptx3 to the C. albicans cell wall was found to regulate the expression of fungal Hap3 target genes as predicted by the network inference model. Pre-incubation of C. albicans with recombinant Ptx3 significantly altered the expression of Mta2 target cytokines such as IL-2 and IL-4 in a Hap3-dependent manner, further suggesting a role for Mta2 in host-pathogen interplay as predicted in the network inference model. We propose an integrated model for the functionality of these sub-networks during fungal invasion of immune cells, according to which binding of Ptx3 to the C. albicans cell wall induces remodeling via fungal Hap3 target genes, thereby altering the immune response to the pathogen. We show the applicability of network inference to predict interactions between host-pathogen pairs, demonstrating the usefulness of this systems biology approach to decipher mechanisms of microbial pathogenesis.

Authors: L. Tierney, Jörg Linde, S. Muller, S. Brunke, J. C. Molina, Bernhard Hube, U. Schock, Reinhard Guthke, K. Kuchler

Date Published: 12th Mar 2012

Journal: Front Microbiol

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