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)

During somatic hypermutation (SHM) of Ig genes in germinal center B cells, lesions introduced by activation-induced cytidine deaminase are processed by multiple error-prone repair pathways. Although error-free repair by homologous recombination (HR) is crucial to prevent excessive DNA strand breakage at activation-induced cytidine deaminase off-target genes, its role at the hypermutating Ig locus in the germinal center is unexplored. Using B cell-specific inactivation of the critical HR factor Brca2, we detected decreased proliferation, survival, and thereby class switching of ex vivo-activated B cells. Intriguingly, an HR defect allowed for a germinal center reaction and affinity maturation in vivo, albeit at reduced amounts. Analysis of SHM revealed that a certain fraction of DNA lesions at C:G bp was indeed repaired in an error-free manner via Brca2 instead of being processed by error-prone translesion polymerases. By applying a novel pseudo-time in silico analysis of mutational processes, we found that the activity of A:T mutagenesis during SHM increased during a germinal center reaction, but this was in part defective in Brca2-deficient mice. These mutation pattern changes in Brca2-deficient B cells were mostly specific for the Ig V region, suggesting a local or time-dependent need for recombination repair to survive high rates of SHM and especially A:T mutagenesis.

Authors: G. Hirth, Carl-Magnus Svensson, K. Bottcher, S. Ullrich, Marc Thilo Figge, Berit Jungnickel

Date Published: 15th Sep 2019

Journal: J Immunol

Abstract (Expand)

BACKGROUND: Invasive aspergillosis is started after germination of Aspergillus fumigatus conidia that are inhaled by susceptible individuals. Fungal hyphae can grow in the lung through the epithelial tissue and disseminate hematogenously to invade into other organs. Low fungaemia indicates that fungal elements do not reside in the bloodstream for long. RESULTS: We analyzed whether blood represents a hostile environment to which the physiology of A. fumigatus has to adapt. An in vitro model of A. fumigatus infection was established by incubating mycelium in blood. Our model allowed to discern the changes of the gene expression profile of A. fumigatus at various stages of the infection. The majority of described virulence factors that are connected to pulmonary infections appeared not to be activated during the blood phase. Three active processes were identified that presumably help the fungus to survive the blood environment in an advanced phase of the infection: iron homeostasis, secondary metabolism, and the formation of detoxifying enzymes. CONCLUSIONS: We propose that A. fumigatus is hardly able to propagate in blood. After an early stage of sensing the environment, virtually all uptake mechanisms and energy-consuming metabolic pathways are shut-down. The fungus appears to adapt by trans-differentiation into a resting mycelial stage. This might reflect the harsh conditions in blood where A. fumigatus cannot take up sufficient nutrients to establish self-defense mechanisms combined with significant growth.

Authors: H. Irmer, S. Tarazona, C. Sasse, P. Olbermann, J. Loeffler, S. Krappmann, A. Conesa, G. H. Braus

Date Published: 28th Aug 2015

Journal: BMC Genomics

Abstract (Expand)

Candida albicans demonstrates three main growth morphologies: yeast, pseudohyphal and true hyphal forms. Cell separation is distinct in these morphological forms and the process of separation is closely linked to the completion of mitosis and cytokinesis. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae the small GTPase Tem1 is known to initiate the mitotic exit network, a signalling pathway involved in signalling the end of mitosis and initiating cytokinesis and cell separation. Here we have characterised the role of Tem1 in C. albicans, and demonstrate that it is essential for mitotic exit and cytokinesis, and that this essential function is signalled through the kinase Cdc15. Cells depleted of Tem1 displayed highly polarised growth but ultimately failed to both complete cytokinesis and re-enter the cell cycle following nuclear division. Consistent with its role in activating the mitotic exit network Tem1 localises to spindle pole bodies in a cell cycle-dependent manner. Ultimately, the mitotic exit network in C. albicans appears to co-ordinate the sequential processes of mitotic exit, cytokinesis and cell separation.

Authors: S. W. Milne, J. Cheetham, D. Lloyd, S. Shaw, K. Moore, K. H. Paszkiewicz, S. J. Aves, S. Bates

Date Published: 29th Jun 2014

Journal: Fungal Genet Biol

Abstract (Expand)

Nitrogen is one of the key nutrients for microbial growth. During infection, pathogenic fungi like C. albicans need to acquire nitrogen from a broad range of different and changing sources inside the host. Detecting the available nitrogen sources and adjusting the expression of genes for their uptake and degradation is therefore crucial for survival and growth as well as for establishing an infection. Here, we analyzed the transcriptional response of C. albicans to nitrogen starvation and feeding with the infection-relevant nitrogen sources arginine and bovine serum albumin (BSA), representing amino acids and proteins, respectively. The response to nitrogen starvation was marked by an immediate repression of protein synthesis and an up-regulation of general amino acid permeases, as well as an up-regulation of autophagal processes in its later stages. Feeding with arginine led to a fast reduction in expression of general permeases for amino acids and to resumption of protein synthesis. The response to BSA feeding was generally slower, and was additionally characterized by an up-regulation of oligopeptide transporter genes. From time-series data, we inferred network interaction models for genes relevant in nitrogen detection and uptake. Each individual network was found to be largely specific for the experimental condition (starvation or feeding with arginine or BSA). In addition, we detected several novel connections between regulator and effector genes, with putative roles in nitrogen uptake. We conclude that C. albicans adopts a particular nitrogen response network, defined by sets of specific gene-gene connections for each environmental condition. All together, they form a grid of possible gene regulatory networks, increasing the transcriptional flexibility of C. albicans.

Authors: S. Ramachandra, Jörg Linde, Matthias Brock, Reinhard Guthke, Bernhard Hube, S. Brunke

Date Published: 20th Mar 2014

Journal: PLoS One

Abstract (Expand)

Fungi produce a multitude of low-molecular-mass compounds known as secondary metabolites, which have roles in a range of cellular processes such as transcription, development and intercellular communication. In addition, many of these compounds now have important applications, for instance, as antibiotics or immunosuppressants. Genome mining efforts indicate that the capability of fungi to produce secondary metabolites has been substantially underestimated because many of the fungal secondary metabolite biosynthesis gene clusters are silent under standard cultivation conditions. In this Review, I describe our current understanding of the regulatory elements that modulate the transcription of genes involved in secondary metabolism. I also discuss how an improved knowledge of these regulatory elements will ultimately lead to a better understanding of the physiological and ecological functions of these important compounds and will pave the way for a novel avenue to drug discovery through targeted activation of silent gene clusters.

Author: Axel A Brakhage

Date Published: 26th Nov 2012

Journal: Nat. Rev. Microbiol.

Abstract (Expand)

BACKGROUND: In System Biology, iterations of wet-lab experiments followed by modelling approaches and model-inspired experiments describe a cyclic workflow. This approach is especially useful for the inference of gene regulatory networks based on high-throughput gene expression data. Experiments can verify or falsify the predicted interactions allowing further refinement of the network model. Aspergillus fumigatus is a major human fungal pathogen. One important virulence trait is its ability to gain sufficient amounts of iron during infection process. Even though some regulatory interactions are known, we are still far from a complete understanding of the way iron homeostasis is regulated. RESULTS: In this study, we make use of a reverse engineering strategy to infer a regulatory network controlling iron homeostasis in A. fumigatus. The inference approach utilizes the temporal change in expression data after a change from iron depleted to iron replete conditions. The modelling strategy is based on a set of linear differential equations and offers the possibility to integrate known regulatory interactions as prior knowledge. Moreover, it makes use of important selection criteria, such as sparseness and robustness. By compiling a list of known regulatory interactions for iron homeostasis in A. fumigatus and softly integrating them during network inference, we are able to predict new interactions between transcription factors and target genes. The proposed activation of the gene expression of hapX by the transcriptional regulator SrbA constitutes a so far unknown way of regulating iron homeostasis based on the amount of metabolically available iron. This interaction has been verified by Northern blots in a recent experimental study. In order to improve the reliability of the predicted network, the results of this experimental study have been added to the set of prior knowledge. The final network includes three SrbA target genes. Based on motif searching within the regulatory regions of these genes, we identify potential DNA-binding sites for SrbA. Our wet-lab experiments demonstrate high-affinity binding capacity of SrbA to the promoters of hapX, hemA and srbA. CONCLUSIONS: This study presents an application of the typical Systems Biology circle and is based on cooperation between wet-lab experimentalists and in silico modellers. The results underline that using prior knowledge during network inference helps to predict biologically important interactions. Together with the experimental results, we indicate a novel iron homeostasis regulating system sensing the amount of metabolically available iron and identify the binding site of iron-related SrbA target genes. It will be of high interest to study whether these regulatory interactions are also important for close relatives of A. fumigatus and other pathogenic fungi, such as Candida albicans.

Authors: Jörg Linde, P. Hortschansky, E. Fazius, Axel Brakhage, Reinhard Guthke, H. Haas

Date Published: 19th Jan 2012

Journal: BMC Syst Biol

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