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Abstract (Expand)

The RNA interference (RNAi) pathway has evolved numerous functionalities in eukaryotes, with many on display in Kingdom Fungi. RNAi can regulate gene expression, facilitate drug resistance, or even be altogether lost to improve growth potential in some fungal pathogens. In the WHO fungal priority pathogen, Aspergillus fumigatus, the RNAi system is known to be intact and functional. To extend our limited understanding of A. fumigatus RNAi, we first investigated the genetic variation in RNAi-associated genes in a collection of 217 environmental and 83 clinical genomes, where we found that RNAi components are conserved even in clinical strains. Using endogenously expressed inverted-repeat transgenes complementary to a conditionally essential gene (pabA) or a nonessential gene (pksP), we determined that a subset of the RNAi componentry is active in inverted-repeat transgene silencing in conidia and mycelium. Analysis of mRNA-seq data from RNAi double-knockout strains linked the A. fumigatus dicer-like enzymes (DclA/B) and RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RrpA/B) to regulation of conidial ribosome biogenesis genes; however, surprisingly few endogenous small RNAs were identified in conidia that could explain this broad change. Although RNAi was not clearly linked to growth or stress response defects in the RNAi knockouts, serial passaging of RNAi knockout strains for six generations resulted in lineages with diminished spore production over time, indicating that loss of RNAi can exert a fitness cost on the fungus. Cumulatively, A. fumigatus RNAi appears to play an active role in defense against double-stranded RNA species alongside a previously unappreciated housekeeping function in regulation of conidial ribosomal biogenesis genes.

Authors: A. A. Kelani, A. Bruch, F. Rivieccio, C. Visser, T. Kruger, D. Weaver, X. Pan, S. Schauble, G. Panagiotou, O. Kniemeyer, M. J. Bromley, P. Bowyer, A. E. Barber, A. A. Brakhage, M. G. Blango

Date Published: 19th Jun 2023

Publication Type: Journal

Abstract (Expand)

BACKGROUND: Aspergillus fumigatus is a major fungal pathogen that causes severe problems due to its increasing resistance to many therapeutic agents. Fludioxonil is a compound that triggers a lethal activation of the fungal-specific High Osmolarity Glycerol pathway. Its pronounced antifungal activity against A. fumigatus and other pathogenic molds renders this agent an attractive lead substance for the development of new therapeutics. The group III hydride histidine kinase TcsC and its downstream target Skn7 are key elements of the multistep phosphorelay that represents the initial section of the High Osmolarity Glycerol pathway. Loss of tcsC results in resistance to fludioxonil, whereas a Deltaskn7 mutant is partially, but not completely resistant. RESULTS: In this study, we compared the fludioxonil-induced transcriptional responses in the DeltatcsC and Deltaskn7 mutant and their parental A. fumigatus strain. The number of differentially expressed genes correlates well with the susceptibility level of the individual strains. The wild type and, to a lesser extend also the Deltaskn7 mutant, showed a multi-faceted stress response involving genes linked to ribosomal and peroxisomal function, iron homeostasis and oxidative stress. A marked difference between the sensitive wild type and the largely resistant Deltaskn7 mutant was evident for many cell wall-related genes and in particular those involved in the biosynthesis of chitin. Biochemical data corroborate this differential gene expression that does not occur in response to hyperosmotic stress. CONCLUSIONS: Our data reveal that fludioxonil induces a strong and TcsC-dependent stress that affects many aspects of the cellular machinery. The data also demonstrate a link between Skn7 and the cell wall reorganizations that foster the characteristic ballooning and the subsequent lysis of fludioxonil-treated cells.

Authors: S. Schruefer, A. Pschibul, S. S. W. Wong, T. Sae-Ong, T. Wolf, S. Schauble, G. Panagiotou, A. A. Brakhage, V. Aimanianda, O. Kniemeyer, F. Ebel

Date Published: 14th Nov 2023

Publication Type: Journal

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, F. Rivieccio, T. Kruger, M. Rafiq, L. J. Jia, T. Zheng, M. Goldmann, V. Voltersen, J. Li, G. Panagiotou, O. Kniemeyer, A. A. Brakhage

Date Published: 1st May 2020

Publication Type: Not specified

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