Publications

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)

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

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