Abstract (Expand)

Only four species, Candida albicans, C. glabrata, C. parapsilosis, and C. tropicalis, together account for about 90% of all Candida bloodstream infections and are among the most common causes of invasive fungal infections of humans. However, virulence potential varies among these species, and the phylogenetic tree reveals that their pathogenicity may have emerged several times independently during evolution. We therefore tested these four species in a human whole-blood infection model to determine, via comprehensive dual-species RNA-sequencing analyses, which fungal infection strategies are conserved and which are recent evolutionary developments. The ex vivo infection progressed from initial immune cell interactions to nearly complete killing of all fungal cells. During the course of infection, we characterized important parameters of pathogen-host interactions, such as fungal survival, types of interacting immune cells, and cytokine release. On the transcriptional level, we obtained a predominantly uniform and species-independent human response governed by a strong upregulation of proinflammatory processes, which was downregulated at later time points after most of the fungal cells were killed. In stark contrast, we observed that the different fungal species pursued predominantly individual strategies and showed significantly different global transcriptome patterns. Among other findings, our functional analyses revealed that the fungal species relied on different metabolic pathways and virulence factors to survive the host-imposed stress. These data show that adaptation of Candida species as a response to the host is not a phylogenetic trait, but rather has likely evolved independently as a prerequisite to cause human infections.IMPORTANCE To ensure their survival, pathogens have to adapt immediately to new environments in their hosts, for example, during the transition from the gut to the bloodstream. Here, we investigated the basis of this adaptation in a group of fungal species which are among the most common causes of hospital-acquired infections, the Candida species. On the basis of a human whole-blood infection model, we studied which genes and processes are active over the course of an infection in both the host and four different Candida pathogens. Remarkably, we found that, while the human host response during the early phase of infection is predominantly uniform, the pathogens pursue largely individual strategies and each one regulates genes involved in largely disparate processes in the blood. Our results reveal that C. albicans, C. glabrata, C. parapsilosis, and C. tropicalis all have developed individual strategies for survival in the host. This indicates that their pathogenicity in humans has evolved several times independently and that genes which are central for survival in the host for one species may be irrelevant in another.

Authors: P. Kammer, S. McNamara, Thomas Wolf, Theresia Conrad, Stefanie Allert, F. Gerwien, Kerstin Hünniger, Oliver Kurzai, Reinhard Guthke, Bernhard Hube, Jörg Linde, S. Brunke

Date Published: 6th Oct 2020

Journal: mBio

Abstract (Expand)

Delayed natural killer (NK) cell reconstitution after allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT) is associated with a higher risk of developing invasive aspergillosis. The interaction of NK cells with the human pathogen Aspergillus (A.) fumigatus is mediated by the fungal recognition receptor CD56, which is relocated to the fungal interface after contact. Blocking of CD56 signaling inhibits the fungal mediated chemokine secretion of MIP-1alpha, MIP-1beta, and RANTES and reduces cell activation, indicating a functional role of CD56 in fungal recognition. We collected peripheral blood from recipients of an allograft at defined time points after alloSCT (day 60, 90, 120, 180). NK cells were isolated, directly challenged with live A. fumigatus germ tubes, and cell function was analyzed and compared to healthy age and gender-matched individuals. After alloSCT, NK cells displayed a higher percentage of CD56(bright)CD16(dim) cells throughout the time of blood collection. However, CD56 binding and relocalization to the fungal contact side were decreased. We were able to correlate this deficiency to the administration of corticosteroid therapy that further negatively influenced the secretion of MIP-1alpha, MIP-1beta, and RANTES. As a consequence, the treatment of healthy NK cells ex vivo with corticosteroids abrogated chemokine secretion measured by multiplex immunoassay. Furthermore, we analyzed NK cells regarding their actin cytoskeleton by Structured Illumination Microscopy (SIM) and flow cytometry and demonstrate an actin dysfunction of NK cells shown by reduced F-actin content after fungal co-cultivation early after alloSCT. This dysfunction remains until 180 days post-alloSCT, concluding that further actin-dependent cellular processes may be negatively influenced after alloSCT. To investigate the molecular pathomechansism, we compared CD56 receptor mobility on the plasma membrane of healthy and alloSCT primary NK cells by single-molecule tracking. The results were very robust and reproducible between tested conditions which point to a different molecular mechanism and emphasize the importance of proper CD56 mobility.

Authors: Esther Weiß, J. Schlegel, Ulrich Terpitz, Michael Weber, Jörg Linde, A. L. Schmitt, Kerstin Hünniger, Lothar Marischen, F. Gamon, J. Bauer, C. Loffler, Oliver Kurzai, C. O. Morton, M. Sauer, Hermann Einsele, Jürgen Löffler

Date Published: 5th Oct 2020

Journal: Front Immunol

Abstract (Expand)

BACKGROUND: Candida albicans and Candida glabrata are the 2 most prevalent Candida species causing bloodstream infections. Patterns of innate immune activation triggered by the 2 fungi differ considerably. METHODS: To analyze human natural killer (NK) cell activation by both species, we performed ex vivo whole-blood infection assays and confrontation assays with primary human NK cells. RESULTS: C. albicans was a stronger activator for isolated human NK cells than C. glabrata. In contrast, activation of blood NK cells, characterized by an upregulated surface exposure of early activation antigen CD69 and death receptor ligand TRAIL, as well as interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) secretion, was more pronounced during C. glabrata infection. NK cell activation in blood is mediated by humoral mediators released by other immune cells and does not depend on direct activation by fungal cells. Cross-talk between Candida-confronted monocyte-derived dendritic cells (moDC) and NK cells resulted in the same NK activation phenotype as NK cells in human blood. Blocking experiments and cytokine substitution identified interleukin-12 as a critical mediator in regulation of primary NK cells by moDC. CONCLUSIONS: Activation of human NK cells in response to Candida in human blood mainly occurs indirectly by mediators released from monocytic cells.

Authors: A. Marolda, Kerstin Hünniger, S. Bottcher, W. Vivas, Jürgen Löffler, Marc Thilo Figge, Oliver Kurzai

Date Published: 11th Jun 2020

Journal: J Infect Dis

Abstract (Expand)

The capacity of Candida albicans to reversibly change its morphology between yeast and filamentous stages is crucial for its virulence. Formation of hyphae correlates with the upregulation of genes ALS3 and ECE1, which are involved in pathogenicity processes such as invasion, iron acquisition, and host cell damage. The global repressor Tup1 and its cofactor Nrg1 are considered to be the main antagonists of hyphal development in C. albicans However, our experiments revealed that Tup1, but not Nrg1, was required for full expression of ALS3 and ECE1 In contrast to NRG1, overexpression of TUP1 was found to inhibit neither filamentous growth nor transcription of ALS3 and ECE1 In addition, we identified the transcription factor Ahr1 as being required for full expression of both genes. A hyperactive version of Ahr1 bound directly to the promoters of ALS3 and ECE1 and induced their transcription even in the absence of environmental stimuli. This regulation worked even in the absence of the crucial hyphal growth regulators Cph1 and Efg1 but was dependent on the presence of Tup1. Overall, our results show that Ahr1 and Tup1 are key contributors in the complex regulation of virulence-associated genes in the different C. albicans morphologies.IMPORTANCE Candida albicans is a major human fungal pathogen and the leading cause of systemic Candida infections. In recent years, Als3 and Ece1 were identified as important factors for fungal virulence. Transcription of both corresponding genes is closely associated with hyphal growth. Here, we describe how Tup1, normally a global repressor of gene expression as well as of filamentation, and the transcription factor Ahr1 contribute to full expression of ALS3 and ECE1 in C. albicans hyphae. Both regulators are required for high mRNA amounts of the two genes to ensure functional relevant protein synthesis and localization. These observations identified a new aspect of regulation in the complex transcriptional control of virulence-associated genes in C. albicans.

Authors: S. Ruben, E. Garbe, Selene Mogavero, Daniela Albrecht-Eckardt, D. Hellwig, A. Hader, Thomas Krüger, K. Gerth, Ilse Jacobsen, O. Elshafee, S. Brunke, Kerstin Hünniger, Olaf Kniemeyer, Axel Brakhage, Joachim Morschhäuser, Bernhard Hube, Slavena Vylkova, Oliver Kurzai, R. Martin

Date Published: 28th Apr 2020

Journal: mBio

Abstract (Expand)

Invasive aspergillosis (IA) is a life-threatening complication among allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (alloSCT) recipients. Despite well known risk factors and different available assays, diagnosis of invasive aspergillosis remains challenging. 103 clinical variables from patients with hematological malignancies and subsequent alloSCT were collected. Associations between collected variables and patients with (n = 36) and without IA (n = 36) were investigated by applying univariate and multivariable logistic regression. The predictive power of the final model was tested in an independent patient cohort (23 IA cases and 25 control patients). Findings were investigated further by in vitro studies, which analysed the effect of etanercept on A. fumigatus-stimulated macrophages at the gene expression and cytokine secretion. Additionally, the release of C-X-C motif chemokine ligand 10 (CXCL10) in patient sera was studied. Low monocyte concentration (p = 4.8 x 10(-06)), severe GvHD of the gut (grade 2-4) (p = 1.08 x 10(-02)) and etanercept treatment of GvHD (p = 3.5 x 10(-03)) were significantly associated with IA. Our studies showed that etanercept lowers CXCL10 concentrations in vitro and ex vivo and down-regulates genes involved in immune responses and TNF-alpha signaling. Our study offers clinicians new information regarding risk factors for IA including low monocyte counts and administration of etanercept. After necessary validation, such information may be used for decision making regarding antifungal prophylaxis or closely monitoring patients at risk.

Authors: T. Zoran, Michael Weber, J. Springer, P. L. White, J. Bauer, A. Schober, C. Loffler, B. Seelbinder, Kerstin Hünniger, Oliver Kurzai, A. Scherag, Sascha Schäuble, C. O. Morton, Hermann Einsele, Jörg Linde, Jürgen Löffler

Date Published: 21st Nov 2019

Journal: Sci Rep

Abstract (Expand)

Within the last two decades, the incidence of invasive fungal infections has been significantly increased. They are characterized by high mortality rates and are often caused by Candida albicans and Aspergillus fumigatus. The increasing number of infections underlines the necessity for additional anti-fungal therapies, which require extended knowledge of gene regulations during fungal infection. MicroRNAs are regulators of important cellular processes, including the immune response. By analyzing their regulation and impact on target genes, novel therapeutic and diagnostic approaches may be developed. Here, we examine the role of microRNAs in human dendritic cells during fungal infection. Dendritic cells represent the bridge between the innate and the adaptive immune systems. Therefore, analysis of gene regulation of dendritic cells is of particular significance. By applying next-generation sequencing of small RNAs, we quantify microRNA expression in monocyte-derived dendritic cells after 6 and 12 h of infection with C. albicans and A. fumigatus as well as treatment with lipopolysaccharides (LPS). We identified 26 microRNAs that are differentially regulated after infection by the fungi or LPS. Three and five of them are specific for fungal infections after 6 and 12 h, respectively. We further validated interactions of miR-132-5p and miR-212-5p with immunological relevant target genes, such as FKBP1B, KLF4, and SPN, on both RNA and protein level. Our results indicate that these microRNAs fine-tune the expression of immune-related target genes during fungal infection. Beyond that, we identified previously undiscovered microRNAs. We validated three novel microRNAs via qRT-PCR. A comparison with known microRNAs revealed possible relations with the miR-378 family and miR-1260a/b for two of them, while the third one features a unique sequence with no resemblance to known microRNAs. In summary, this study analyzes the effect of known microRNAs in dendritic cells during fungal infections and proposes novel microRNAs that could be experimentally verified.

Authors: Andreas Dix, K. Czakai, I. Leonhardt, K. Schaferhoff, M. Bonin, Reinhard Guthke, Hermann Einsele, Oliver Kurzai, Jürgen Löffler, Jörg Linde

Date Published: 11th Mar 2017

Journal: Front Microbiol

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