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)

BACKGROUND: Antibiotic treatment has a well-established detrimental effect on the gut bacterial composition, but effects on the fungal community are less clear. Bacteria in the lumen of the gastrointestinal tract may limit fungal colonization and invasion. Antibiotic drugs targeting bacteria are therefore seen as an important risk factor for fungal infections and induced allergies. However, antibiotic effects on gut bacterial-fungal interactions, including disruption and resilience of fungal community compositions, were not investigated in humans. We analysed stool samples collected from 14 healthy human participants over 3 months following a 6-day antibiotic administration. We integrated data from shotgun metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, metabolomics, and fungal ITS2 sequencing. RESULTS: While the bacterial community recovered mostly over 3 months post treatment, the fungal community was shifted from mutualism at baseline to competition. Half of the bacterial-fungal interactions present before drug intervention had disappeared 3 months later. During treatment, fungal abundances were associated with the expression of bacterial genes with functions for cell growth and repair. By extending the metagenomic species approach, we revealed bacterial strains inhibiting the opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans. We demonstrated in vitro how C. albicans pathogenicity and host cell damage might be controlled naturally in the human gut by bacterial metabolites such as propionate or 5-dodecenoate. CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrated that antibacterial drugs have long-term influence on the human gut mycobiome. While bacterial communities recovered mostly 30-days post antibacterial treatment, the fungal community was shifted from mutualism towards competition. Video abstract.

Authors: Bastian Seelbinder, J. Chen, S. Brunke, R. Vazquez-Uribe, R. Santhaman, A. C. Meyer, F. S. de Oliveira Lino, K. F. Chan, D. Loos, L. Imamovic, C. C. Tsang, R. P. Lam, S. Sridhar, K. Kang, Bernhard Hube, P. C. Woo, M. O. A. Sommer, Gianni Panagiotou

Date Published: 12th Sep 2020

Journal: Microbiome

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)

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)

Once biological systems are modeled by regulatory networks, the next step is to include external stimuli, which model the experimental possibilities to affect the activity level of certain network's nodes, in a mathematical framework. Then, this framework can be interpreted as a mathematical optimal control framework such that optimization algorithms can be used to determine external stimuli which cause a desired switch from an initial state of the network to another final state. These external stimuli are the intervention points for the corresponding biological experiment to obtain the desired outcome of the considered experiment. In this work, the model of regulatory networks is extended to controlled regulatory networks. For this purpose, external stimuli are considered which can affect the activity of the network's nodes by activation or inhibition. A method is presented how to calculate a selection of external stimuli which causes a switch between two different steady states of a regulatory network. A software solution based on Jimena and Mathworks Matlab is provided. Furthermore, numerical examples are presented to demonstrate application and scope of the software on networks of 4 nodes, 11 nodes and 36 nodes. Moreover, we analyze the aggregation of platelets and the behavior of a basic T-helper cell protein-protein interaction network and its maturation towards Th0, Th1, Th2, Th17 and Treg cells in accordance with experimental data.

Authors: T. Breitenbach, C. Liang, N. Beyersdorf, T. Dandekar

Date Published: 17th Jul 2019

Journal: PLoS Comput Biol

Abstract (Expand)

The heterotrimeric protein kinase SNF1 plays a key role in the metabolic adaptation of the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans It consists of the essential catalytic alpha-subunit Snf1, the gamma-subunit Snf4, and one of the two beta-subunits Kis1 and Kis2. Snf4 is required to release the N-terminal catalytic domain of Snf1 from autoinhibition by the C-terminal regulatory domain, and snf4Delta mutants cannot grow on carbon sources other than glucose. In a screen for suppressor mutations that restore growth of a snf4Delta mutant on alternative carbon sources, we isolated a mutant in which six amino acids between the N-terminal kinase domain and the C-terminal regulatory domain of Snf1 were deleted. The deletion was caused by an intragenic recombination event between two 8-bp direct repeats flanking six intervening codons. In contrast to truncated forms of Snf1 that contain only the kinase domain, the Snf4-independent Snf1(Delta311 - 316) was fully functional and could replace wild-type Snf1 for normal growth, because it retained the ability to interact with the Kis1 and Kis2 beta-subunits via its C-terminal domain. Indeed, the Snf4-independent Snf1(Delta311 - 316) still required the beta-subunits of the SNF1 complex to perform its functions and did not rescue the growth defects of kis1Delta mutants. Our results demonstrate that a preprogrammed in-frame deletion event within the SNF1 coding region can generate a mutated form of this essential kinase which abolishes autoinhibition and thereby overcomes growth deficiencies caused by a defect in the gamma-subunit Snf4.IMPORTANCE Genomic alterations, including different types of recombination events, facilitate the generation of genetically altered variants and enable the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans to adapt to stressful conditions encountered in its human host. Here, we show that a specific recombination event between two 8-bp direct repeats within the coding sequence of the SNF1 gene results in the deletion of six amino acids between the N-terminal kinase domain and the C-terminal regulatory domain and relieves this essential kinase from autoinhibition. This preprogrammed deletion allowed C. albicans to overcome growth defects caused by the absence of the regulatory subunit Snf4 and represents a built-in mechanism for the generation of a Snf4-independent Snf1 kinase.

Authors: Austin Mottola, Joachim Morschhäuser

Date Published: 19th Jun 2019

Journal: mSphere

Abstract (Expand)

Dendritic cells (DCs) are antigen presenting cells which serve as a passage between the innate and the acquired immunity. Aspergillosis is a major lethal condition in immunocompromised patients caused by the adaptable saprophytic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus. The healthy human immune system is capable to ward off A. fumigatus infections however immune-deficient patients are highly vulnerable to invasive aspergillosis. A. fumigatus can persist during infection due to its ability to survive the immune response of human DCs. Therefore, the study of the metabolism specific to the context of infection may allow us to gain insight into the adaptation strategies of both the pathogen and the immune cells. We established a metabolic model of A. fumigatus central metabolism during infection of DCs and calculated the metabolic pathway (elementary modes; EMs). Transcriptome data were used to identify pathways activated when A. fumigatus is challenged with DCs. In particular, amino acid metabolic pathways, alternative carbon metabolic pathways and stress regulating enzymes were found to be active. Metabolic flux modeling identified further active enzymes such as alcohol dehydrogenase, inositol oxygenase and GTP cyclohydrolase participating in different stress responses in A. fumigatus. These were further validated by qRT-PCR from RNA extracted under these different conditions. For DCs, we outlined the activation of metabolic pathways in response to the confrontation with A. fumigatus. We found the fatty acid metabolism plays a crucial role, along with other metabolic changes. The gene expression data and their analysis illuminate additional regulatory pathways activated in the DCs apart from interleukin regulation. In particular, Toll-like receptor signaling, NOD-like receptor signaling and RIG-I-like receptor signaling were active pathways. Moreover, we identified subnetworks and several novel key regulators such as UBC, EGFR, and CUL3 of DCs to be activated in response to A. fumigatus. In conclusion, we analyze the metabolic and regulatory responses of A. fumigatus and DCs when confronted with each other.

Authors: Mugdha Srivastava, E. Bencurova, Shishir K Gupta, Esther Weiß, Jürgen Löffler, Thomas Dandekar

Date Published: 14th Jun 2019

Journal: Front Cell Infect Microbiol

Abstract (Expand)

Despite the documented antibiotic-induced disruption of the gut microbiota, the impact of antibiotic intake on strain-level dynamics, evolution of resistance genes, and factors influencing resistance dissemination potential remains poorly understood. To address this gap we analyzed public metagenomic datasets from 24 antibiotic treated subjects and controls, combined with an in-depth prospective functional study with two subjects investigating the bacterial community dynamics based on cultivation-dependent and independent methods. We observed that short-term antibiotic treatment shifted and diversified the resistome composition, increased the average copy number of antibiotic resistance genes, and altered the dominant strain genotypes in an individual-specific manner. More than 30% of the resistance genes underwent strong differentiation at the single nucleotide level during antibiotic treatment. We found that the increased potential for horizontal gene transfer, due to antibiotic administration, was approximately 3-fold stronger in the differentiated resistance genes than the non-differentiated ones. This study highlights how antibiotic treatment has individualized impacts on the resistome and strain level composition, and drives the adaptive evolution of the gut microbiota.

Authors: J. Li, E. A. Rettedal, E. van der Helm, M. Ellabaan, Gianni Panagiotou, M. O. A. Sommer

Date Published: 27th Apr 2019

Journal: Genomics Proteomics Bioinformatics

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)

Gain-of-function mutations in the zinc cluster transcription factors Mrr1, Tac1, and Upc2, which result in constitutive overexpression of their target genes, are a frequent cause of fluconazole resistance in the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans In this study, we show that an activated form of another zinc cluster transcription factor, Stb5, confers resistance to the natural compound beauvericin via the overexpression of YOR1, encoding an efflux pump of the ATP-binding cassette transporter superfamily. Beauvericin was recently shown to potentiate the activity of azole drugs against C. albicans Although Yor1 did not contribute to fluconazole resistance when C. albicans cells were treated with the drug alone, Stb5-mediated YOR1 overexpression diminished the synergistic effect of the fluconazole-beauvericin combination, thereby enhancing fluconazole resistance in beauvericin-treated C. albicans cells. Stb5-mediated YOR1 overexpression also suppressed the inhibition of hyphal growth, an important virulence trait of C. albicans, by beauvericin. Therefore, activating mutations in Stb5, which result in constitutive YOR1 overexpression, may enable C. albicans to acquire resistance to beauvericin and thereby overcome both the sensitization to azole drugs and the inhibition of morphogenesis caused by this compound.

Authors: Bernardo Ramirez-Zavala, H. Manz, F. Englert, P. D. Rogers, Joachim Morschhäuser

Date Published: 27th Sep 2018

Journal: Antimicrob Agents Chemother

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)

The opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans frequently produces genetically altered variants to adapt to environmental changes and new host niches in the course of its life-long association with the human host. Gain-of-function mutations in zinc cluster transcription factors, which result in the constitutive upregulation of their target genes, are a common cause of acquired resistance to the widely used antifungal drug fluconazole, especially during long-term therapy of oropharyngeal candidiasis. In this study, we investigated if C. albicans also can develop resistance to the antimicrobial peptide histatin 5, which is secreted in the saliva of humans to protect the oral mucosa from pathogenic microbes. As histatin 5 has been shown to be transported out of C. albicans cells by the Flu1 efflux pump, we screened a library of C. albicans strains that contain artificially activated forms of all zinc cluster transcription factors of this fungus for increased FLU1 expression. We found that a hyperactive Mrr1, which confers fluconazole resistance by upregulating the multidrug efflux pump MDR1 and other genes, also causes FLU1 overexpression. Similarly to the artificially activated Mrr1, naturally occurring gain-of-function mutations in this transcription factor also caused FLU1 upregulation and increased histatin 5 resistance. Surprisingly, however, Mrr1-mediated histatin 5 resistance was mainly caused by the upregulation of MDR1 instead of FLU1, revealing a previously unrecognized function of the Mdr1 efflux pump. Fluconazole-resistant clinical C. albicans isolates with different Mrr1 gain-of-function mutations were less efficiently killed by histatin 5, and this phenotype was reverted when MRR1 was deleted. Therefore, antimycotic therapy can promote the evolution of strains that, as a consequence of drug resistance mutations, simultaneously have acquired increased resistance against an innate host defense mechanism and are thereby better adapted to certain host niches.

Authors: Irene Hampe, J. Friedman, M. Edgerton, Joachim Morschhäuser

Date Published: 28th Sep 2017

Journal: PLoS Pathog

Abstract (Expand)

Studying the pathobiology of the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus has gained a lot of attention in recent years. This is due to the fact that this fungus is a human pathogen that can cause severe diseases, like invasive pulmonary aspergillosis in immunocompromised patients. Because alveolar macrophages belong to the first line of defense against the fungus, here, we conduct an image-based study on the host-pathogen interaction between murine alveolar macrophages and A. fumigatus. This is achieved by an automated image analysis approach that uses a combination of thresholding, watershed segmentation and feature-based object classification. In contrast to previous approaches, our algorithm allows for the segmentation of individual macrophages in the images and this enables us to compute the distribution of phagocytosed and macrophage-adherent conidia over all macrophages. The novel automated image-based analysis provides access to all cell-cell interactions in the assay and thereby represents a framework that enables comprehensive computation of diverse characteristic parameters and comparative investigation for different strains. We here apply automated image analysis to confocal laser scanning microscopy images of the two wild-type strains ATCC 46645 and CEA10 of A. fumigatus and investigate the ability of macrophages to phagocytose the respective conidia. It is found that the CEA10 strain triggers a stronger response of the macrophages as revealed by a higher phagocytosis ratio and a larger portion of the macrophages being active in the phagocytosis process.

Authors: K. Kraibooj, Hanno Schoeler, C. M. Svensson, Axel Brakhage, Marc Thilo Figge

Date Published: 9th Jun 2015

Journal: Front Microbiol

Abstract (Expand)

Pathogens manipulate the cellular mechanisms of host organisms via pathogen-host interactions (PHIs) in order to take advantage of the capabilities of host cells, leading to infections. The crucial role of these interspecies molecular interactions in initiating and sustaining infections necessitates a thorough understanding of the corresponding mechanisms. Unlike the traditional approach of considering the host or pathogen separately, a systems-level approach, considering the PHI system as a whole is indispensable to elucidate the mechanisms of infection. Following the technological advances in the post-genomic era, PHI data have been produced in large-scale within the last decade. Systems biology-based methods for the inference and analysis of PHI regulatory, metabolic, and protein-protein networks to shed light on infection mechanisms are gaining increasing demand thanks to the availability of omics data. The knowledge derived from the PHIs may largely contribute to the identification of new and more efficient therapeutics to prevent or cure infections. There are recent efforts for the detailed documentation of these experimentally verified PHI data through Web-based databases. Despite these advances in data archiving, there are still large amounts of PHI data in the biomedical literature yet to be discovered, and novel text mining methods are in development to unearth such hidden data. Here, we review a collection of recent studies on computational systems biology of PHIs with a special focus on the methods for the inference and analysis of PHI networks, covering also the Web-based databases and text-mining efforts to unravel the data hidden in the literature.

Authors: S. Durmus, T. Cakir, A. Ozgur, Reinhard Guthke

Date Published: 9th Apr 2015

Journal: Front Microbiol

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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