Abstract (Expand)

Human fungal pathogens like Candida albicans respond to host immune surveillance by rapidly adapting their transcriptional programs. Chromatin assembly factors are involved in the regulation of stress genes by modulating the histone density at these loci. Here, we report a novel role for the chromatin assembly-associated histone acetyltransferase complex NuB4 in regulating oxidative stress resistance, antifungal drug tolerance and virulence in C. albicans. Strikingly, depletion of the NuB4 catalytic subunit, the histone acetyltransferase Hat1, markedly increases resistance to oxidative stress and tolerance to azole antifungals. Hydrogen peroxide resistance in cells lacking Hat1 results from higher induction rates of oxidative stress gene expression, accompanied by reduced histone density as well as subsequent increased RNA polymerase recruitment. Furthermore, hat1Delta/Delta cells, despite showing growth defects in vitro, display reduced susceptibility to reactive oxygen-mediated killing by innate immune cells. Thus, clearance from infected mice is delayed although cells lacking Hat1 are severely compromised in killing the host. Interestingly, increased oxidative stress resistance and azole tolerance are phenocopied by the loss of histone chaperone complexes CAF-1 and HIR, respectively, suggesting a central role for NuB4 in the delivery of histones destined for chromatin assembly via distinct pathways. Remarkably, the oxidative stress phenotype of hat1Delta/Delta cells is a species-specific trait only found in C. albicans and members of the CTG clade. The reduced azole susceptibility appears to be conserved in a wider range of fungi. Thus, our work demonstrates how highly conserved chromatin assembly pathways can acquire new functions in pathogenic fungi during coevolution with the host.

Authors: M. Tscherner, F. Zwolanek, S. Jenull, F. J. Sedlazeck, A. Petryshyn, I. E. Frohner, J. Mavrianos, N. Chauhan, A. von Haeseler, K. Kuchler

Date Published: No date defined

Journal: PLoS Pathog

Abstract (Expand)

The fungal cell wall is essential for the maintenance of cellular integrity and mediates interactions of the cells with the environment. It is a highly flexible organelle whose composition and organization is modulated in response to changing growth conditions. In the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans, a network of signaling pathways regulates the structure of the cell wall, and mutants with defects in these pathways are hypersensitive to cell wall stress. By harnessing a library of genetically activated forms of all C. albicans zinc cluster transcription factors, we found that a hyperactive Czf1 rescued the hypersensitivity to cell wall stress of different protein kinase deletion mutants. The hyperactive Czf1 induced the expression of many genes with cell wall-related functions and caused visible changes in the cell wall structure. C. albicans czf1Delta mutants were hypersensitive to the antifungal drug caspofungin, which inhibits cell wall biosynthesis. The changes in cell wall architecture caused by hyperactivity or absence of Czf1 resulted in an increased recognition of C. albicans by human neutrophils. Our results show that Czf1, which is known as a regulator of filamentous growth and white-opaque switching, controls the expression of cell wall genes and modulates the architecture of the cell wall.

Authors: Austin Mottola, Bernardo Ramirez-Zavala, Kerstin Hünniger, Oliver Kurzai, Joachim Morschhäuser

Date Published: 15th Apr 2021

Journal: Mol Microbiol

Abstract (Expand)

Fungal infections caused by the ancient lineage Mucorales are emerging and increasingly reported in humans. Comprehensive surveys on promising attributes from a multitude of possible virulence factors are limited and so far, focused on Mucor and Rhizopus. This study addresses a systematic approach to monitor phagocytosis after physical and enzymatic modification of the outer spore wall of Lichtheimia corymbifera, one of the major causative agents of mucormycosis. Episporic modifications were performed and their consequences on phagocytosis, intracellular survival and virulence by murine alveolar macrophages and in an invertebrate infection model were elucidated. While depletion of lipids did not affect the phagocytosis of both strains, delipidation led to attenuation of LCA strain but appears to be dispensable for infection with LCV strain in the settings used in this study. Combined glucano-proteolytic treatment was necessary to achieve a significant decrease of virulence of the LCV strain in Galleria mellonella during maintenance of the full potential for spore germination as shown by a novel automated germination assay. Proteolytic and glucanolytic treatments largely increased phagocytosis compared to alive resting and swollen spores. Whilst resting spores barely (1-2%) fuse to lysosomes after invagination in to phagosomes, spore trypsinization led to a 10-fold increase of phagolysosomal fusion as measured by intracellular acidification. This is the first report of a polyphasic measurement of the consequences of episporic modification of a mucormycotic pathogen in spore germination, spore surface ultrastructure, phagocytosis, stimulation of Toll-like receptors (TLRs), phagolysosomal fusion and intracellular acidification, apoptosis, generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and virulence.

Authors: Mohamed Hassan, M. Keller, M. Hillger, U. Binder, S. Reuter, K. Herold, A. Telagathoti, H. M. Dahse, S. Wicht, Nora Trinks, S. Nietzsche, T. Deckert-Gaudig, V. Deckert, R. Mrowka, Ulrich Terpitz, H. Peter Saluz, Kerstin Voigt

Date Published: 18th Feb 2021

Journal: Comput Struct Biotechnol J

Abstract (Expand)

Candida albicans is a major fungal pathogen of humans. It exists as a commensal in the oral cavity, gut or genital tract of most individuals, constrained by the local microbiota, epithelial barriers and immune defences. Their perturbation can lead to fungal outgrowth and the development of mucosal infections such as oropharyngeal or vulvovaginal candidiasis, and patients with compromised immunity are susceptible to life-threatening systemic infections. The importance of the interplay between fungus, host and microbiota in driving the transition from C. albicans commensalism to pathogenicity is widely appreciated. However, the complexity of these interactions, and the significant impact of fungal, host and microbiota variability upon disease severity and outcome, are less well understood. Therefore, we summarise the features of the fungus that promote infection, and how genetic variation between clinical isolates influences pathogenicity. We discuss antifungal immunity, how this differs between mucosae, and how individual variation influences a person's susceptibility to infection. Also, we describe factors that influence the composition of gut, oral and vaginal microbiotas, and how these affect fungal colonisation and antifungal immunity. We argue that a detailed understanding of these variables, which underlie fungal-host-microbiota interactions, will present opportunities for directed antifungal therapies that benefit vulnerable patients.

Authors: C. d'Enfert, A. K. Kaune, L. R. Alaban, S. Chakraborty, N. Cole, M. Delavy, D. Kosmala, B. Marsaux, R. Frois-Martins, M. Morelli, D. Rosati, M. Valentine, Z. Xie, Y. Emritloll, P. A. Warn, F. Bequet, M. E. Bougnoux, S. Bornes, Mark Gresnigt, Bernhard Hube, Ilse Jacobsen, M. Legrand, S. Leibundgut-Landmann, C. Manichanh, C. A. Munro, M. G. Netea, K. Queiroz, K. Roget, V. Thomas, C. Thoral, P. Van den Abbeele, A. W. Walker, A. J. P. Brown

Date Published: 24th Nov 2020

Journal: FEMS Microbiol Rev

Abstract (Expand)

High-throughput RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) is routinely applied to study diverse biological processes; however, when performed separately on interacting organisms, systemic noise intrinsic to RNA extraction, library preparation, and sequencing hampers the identification of cross-species interaction nodes. Here, we develop triple RNA-seq to simultaneously detect transcriptomes of monocyte-derived dendritic cells (moDCs) infected with the frequently co-occurring pulmonary pathogens Aspergillus fumigatus and human cytomegalovirus (CMV). Comparing expression patterns after co-infection with those after single infections, our data reveal synergistic effects and mutual interferences between host responses to the two pathogens. For example, CMV attenuates the fungus-mediated activation of pro-inflammatory cytokines through NF-kappaB (nuclear factor kappaB) and NFAT (nuclear factor of activated T cells) cascades, while A. fumigatus impairs viral clearance by counteracting viral nucleic acid-induced activation of type I interferon signaling. Together, the analytical power of triple RNA-seq proposes molecular hubs in the differential moDC response to fungal/viral single infection or co-infection that contribute to our understanding of the etiology and, potentially, clearance of post-transplant infections.

Authors: Bastian Seelbinder, J. Wallstabe, Lothar Marischen, Esther Weiß, S. Wurster, L. Page, C. Loffler, L. Bussemer, A. L. Schmitt, Thomas Wolf, Jörg Linde, L. Cicin-Sain, J. Becker, U. Kalinke, J. Vogel, Gianni Panagiotou, Hermann Einsele, A. J. Westermann, Sascha Schäuble, Jürgen Löffler

Date Published: 17th Nov 2020

Journal: Cell Rep

Abstract (Expand)

The dimorphic fungus Candida albicans is both a harmless commensal organism on mucosal surfaces and an opportunistic pathogen. Under certain predisposing conditions, the fungus can overgrow the mucosal microbiome and cause both superficial and life-threatening systemic infections after gaining access to the bloodstream. As the first line of defense of the innate immune response, infecting C. albicans cells face macrophages, which mediate the clearance of invading fungi by intracellular killing. However, the fungus has evolved sophisticated strategies to counteract macrophage antimicrobial activities and thus evade immune surveillance. The cytolytic peptide toxin, candidalysin, contributes to this fungal defense machinery by damaging immune cell membranes, providing an escape route from the hostile phagosome environment. Nevertheless, candidalysin also induces NLRP3 inflammasome activation, leading to an increased host-protective pro-inflammatory response in mononuclear phagocytes. Therefore, candidalysin facilitates immune evasion by acting as a classical virulence factor but also contributes to an antifungal immune response, serving as an avirulence factor. In this review, we discuss the role of candidalysin during C. albicans infections, focusing on its implications during C. albicans-macrophage interactions.

Authors: A. Konig, Bernhard Hube, Lydia Kasper

Date Published: 24th Jul 2020

Journal: Toxins (Basel)

Abstract (Expand)

The fungal pathogen Candida albicans forms polymorphic biofilms where hyphal morphogenesis and metabolic adaptation are tightly coordinated by a complex intertwined network of transcription factors. The sensing and metabolism of amino acids play important roles during various phases of biofilm development - from adhesion to maturation. Stp2 is a transcription factor that activates the expression of amino acid permease genes and is required for environmental alkalinization and hyphal growth in vitro and during macrophage phagocytosis. While it is well established that Stp2 is activated in response to external amino acids, its role in biofilm formation remains unknown. In addition to widely used techniques, we applied newly developed approaches for automated image analysis to quantify Stp2-regulated filamentation and biofilm growth. Our results show that in the stp2Delta deletion mutant adherence to abiotic surfaces and initial germ tube formation were strongly impaired, but formed mature biofilms with cell density and morphological structures comparable to the control strains. Stp2-dependent nutrient adaptation appeared to play an important role in biofilm development: stp2Delta biofilms formed under continuous nutrient flow displayed an overall reduction in biofilm formation, whereas under steady conditions the mutant strain formed biofilms with lower metabolic activity, resulting in increased cell survival and biofilm longevity. A deletion of STP2 led to increased rapamycin susceptibility and transcriptional activation of GCN4, the transcriptional regulator of the general amino acid control pathway, demonstrating a connection of Stp2 to other nutrient-responsive pathways. In summary, the transcription factor Stp2 is important for C. albicans biofilm formation, where it contributes to adherence and induction of morphogenesis, and mediates nutrient adaption and cell longevity in mature biofilms.

Authors: B. Bottcher, B. Hoffmann, E. Garbe, T. Weise, Z. Cseresnyes, Philipp Brandt, Stefanie Dietrich, D. Driesch, Marc Thilo Figge, Slavena Vylkova

Date Published: 20th May 2020

Journal: Front Microbiol

Abstract (Expand)

Aspergillus fumigatus is an opportunistic fungal pathogen that can cause life-threatening invasive lung infections in immunodeficient patients. The cellular and molecular processes of infection during onset, establishment, and progression of A. fumigatus infections are highly complex and depend on both fungal attributes and the immune status of the host. Therefore, preclinical animal models are of paramount importance to investigate and gain better insight into the infection process. Yet, despite their extensive use, commonly employed murine models of invasive pulmonary aspergillosis are not well understood due to analytical limitations. Here, we present quantitative light sheet fluorescence microscopy (LSFM) to describe fungal growth and the local immune response in whole lungs at cellular resolution within its anatomical context. We analyzed three very common murine models of pulmonary aspergillosis based on immunosuppression with corticosteroids, chemotherapy-induced leukopenia, or myeloablative irradiation. LSFM uncovered distinct architectures of fungal growth and degrees of tissue invasion in each model. Furthermore, LSFM revealed the spatial distribution, interaction, and activation of two key immune cell populations in antifungal defense: alveolar macrophages and polymorphonuclear neutrophils. Interestingly, the patterns of fungal growth correlated with the detected effects of the immunosuppressive regimens on the local immune cell populations. Moreover, LSFM demonstrates that the commonly used intranasal route of spore administration did not result in complete intra-alveolar deposition, as about 80% of fungal growth occurred outside the alveolar space. Hence, characterization by LSFM is more rigorous than by previously used methods employing murine models of invasive pulmonary aspergillosis and pinpoints their strengths and limitations.IMPORTANCE The use of animal models of infection is essential to advance our understanding of the complex host-pathogen interactions that take place during Aspergillus fumigatus lung infections. As in the case of humans, mice need to suffer an immune imbalance in order to become susceptible to invasive pulmonary aspergillosis (IPA), the most serious infection caused by A. fumigatus There are several immunosuppressive regimens that are routinely used to investigate fungal growth and/or immune responses in murine models of invasive pulmonary aspergillosis. However, the precise consequences of the use of each immunosuppressive model for the local immune populations and for fungal growth are not completely understood. Here, to pin down the scenarios involving commonly used IPA models, we employed light sheet fluorescence microscopy (LSFM) to analyze whole lungs at cellular resolution. Our results will be valuable to optimize and refine animal models to maximize their use in future research.

Authors: J. Amich, Zeinab Mokhtari, Marlene Strobel, E. Vialetto, D. Sheta, Y. Yu, J. Hartweg, N. Kalleda, K. J. Jarick, C. Brede, A. L. Jordan-Garrote, S. Thusek, K. Schmiedgen, Berkan Arslan, J. Pinnecker, C. R. Thornton, M. Gunzer, S. Krappmann, Hermann Einsele, Katrin Heinze, Andreas Beilhack

Date Published: 4th Feb 2020

Journal: mBio

Abstract (Expand)

Pathogenic microorganisms entail enormous problems for humans, livestock, and crop plants. A better understanding of the different infection strategies of the pathogens enables us to derive optimal treatments to mitigate infectious diseases or develop vaccinations preventing the occurrence of infections altogether. In this review, we highlight the current trends in mathematical modeling approaches and related methods used for understanding host-pathogen interactions. Since these interactions can be described on vastly different temporal and spatial scales as well as abstraction levels, a variety of computational and mathematical approaches are presented. Particular emphasis is placed on dynamic optimization, game theory, and spatial modeling, as they are attracting more and more interest in systems biology. Furthermore, these approaches are often combined to illuminate the complexities of the interactions between pathogens and their host. We also discuss the phenomena of molecular mimicry and crypsis as well as the interplay between defense and counter defense. As a conclusion, we provide an overview of method characteristics to assist non-experts in their decision for modeling approaches and interdisciplinary understanding.

Authors: Jan Ewald, Patricia Sieber, R. Garde, S. N. Lang, Stefan Schuster, B. Ibrahim

Date Published: 30th Nov 2019

Journal: Cell Mol Life Sci

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)

Stomata are microscopic pores found on the surfaces of leaves that act to control CO2 uptake and water loss. By integrating information derived from endogenous signals with cues from the surrounding environment, the guard cells, which surround the pore, 'set' the stomatal aperture to suit the prevailing conditions. Much research has concentrated on understanding the rapid intracellular changes that result in immediate changes to the stomatal aperture. In this study, we look instead at how stomata acclimate to longer timescale variations in their environment. We show that the closure-inducing signals abscisic acid (ABA), increased CO2, decreased relative air humidity and darkness each access a unique gene network made up of clusters (or modules) of common cellular processes. However, within these networks some gene clusters are shared amongst all four stimuli. All stimuli modulate the expression of members of the PYR/PYL/RCAR family of ABA receptors. However, they are modulated differentially in a stimulus-specific manner. Of the six members of the PYR/PYL/RCAR family expressed in guard cells, PYL2 is sufficient for guard cell ABA-induced responses, whereas in the responses to CO2, PYL4 and PYL5 are essential. Overall, our work shows the importance of ABA as a central regulator and integrator of long-term changes in stomatal behaviour, including sensitivity, elicited by external signals. Understanding this architecture may aid in breeding crops with improved water and nutrient efficiency.

Authors: M. Dittrich, H. M. Mueller, H. Bauer, M. Peirats-Llobet, P. L. Rodriguez, C. M. Geilfus, S. C. Carpentier, K. A. S. Al Rasheid, H. Kollist, E. Merilo, J. Herrmann, T. Muller, P. Ache, A. M. Hetherington, R. Hedrich

Date Published: 28th Aug 2019

Journal: Nat Plants

Abstract (Expand)

Mucormycoses are life-threatening infections that affect patients suffering from immune deficiencies. We performed phagocytosis assays confronting various strains of Lichtheimia species with alveolar macrophages, which form the first line of defence of the innate immune system. To investigate 17 strains from four different continents in a comparative fashion, transmitted light and confocal fluorescence microscopy was applied in combination with automated image analysis. This interdisciplinary approach enabled the objective and quantitative processing of the big volume of image data. Applying machine-learning supported methods, a spontaneous clustering of the strains was revealed in the space of phagocytic measures. This clustering was not driven by measures of fungal morphology but rather by the geographical origin of the fungal strains. Our study illustrates the crucial contribution of machine-learning supported automated image analysis to the qualitative discovery and quantitative comparison of major factors affecting host-pathogen interactions. We found that the phagocytic vulnerability of Lichtheimia species depends on their geographical origin, where strains within each geographic region behaved similarly, but strongly differed amongst the regions. Based on this clustering, we were able to also classify clinical isolates with regard to their potential geographical origin.

Authors: M. I. A. Hassan, Z. Cseresnyes, N. Al-Zaben, H. M. Dahse, R. J. Vilela de Oliveira, G. Walther, Kerstin Voigt, Marc Thilo Figge

Date Published: 23rd Jul 2019

Journal: Environ Microbiol

Abstract (Expand)

Clearance of invading microbes requires phagocytes of the innate immune system. However, successful pathogens have evolved sophisticated strategies to evade immune killing. The opportunistic human fungal pathogen Candida albicans is efficiently phagocytosed by macrophages, but causes inflammasome activation, host cytolysis, and escapes after hypha formation. Previous studies suggest that macrophage lysis by C. albicans results from early inflammasome-dependent cell death (pyroptosis), late damage due to glucose depletion and membrane piercing by growing hyphae. Here we show that Candidalysin, a cytolytic peptide toxin encoded by the hypha-associated gene ECE1, is both a central trigger for NLRP3 inflammasome-dependent caspase-1 activation via potassium efflux and a key driver of inflammasome-independent cytolysis of macrophages and dendritic cells upon infection with C. albicans. This suggests that Candidalysin-induced cell damage is a third mechanism of C. albicans-mediated mononuclear phagocyte cell death in addition to damage caused by pyroptosis and the growth of glucose-consuming hyphae.

Authors: Lydia Kasper, A. Konig, P. A. Koenig, M. S. Gresnigt, J. Westman, R. A. Drummond, M. S. Lionakis, O. Gross, J. Ruland, J. R. Naglik, Bernhard Hube

Date Published: 15th Oct 2018

Journal: Nat Commun

Abstract (Expand)

Fungi, usually present as commensals, are a major cause of opportunistic infections in immunocompromised patients. Such infections, if not diagnosed or treated properly, can prove fatal. However, in most cases healthy individuals are able to avert the fungal attacks by mounting proper antifungal immune responses. Among the pattern recognition receptors (PRRs), C-type lectin receptors (CLRs) are the major players in antifungal immunity. CLRs can recognize carbohydrate ligands, such as beta-glucans and mannans, which are mainly found on fungal cell surfaces. They induce proinflammatory immune reactions, including phagocytosis, oxidative burst, cytokine, and chemokine production from innate effector cells, as well as activation of adaptive immunity via Th17 responses. CLRs such as Dectin-1, Dectin-2, Mincle, mannose receptor (MR), and DC-SIGN can recognize many disease-causing fungi and also collaborate with each other as well as other PRRs in mounting a fungi-specific immune response. Mutations in these receptors affect the host response and have been linked to a higher risk in contracting fungal infections. This review focuses on how CLRs on various immune cells orchestrate the antifungal response and on the contribution of single nucleotide polymorphisms in these receptors toward the risk of developing such infections.

Authors: S. Goyal, J. C. Castrillon-Betancur, Esther Klaile, Hortense Slevogt

Date Published: 20th Jun 2018

Journal: Front Immunol

Abstract (Expand)

The term open reading frame (ORF) is of central importance to gene finding. Surprisingly, at least three definitions are in use. We discuss several molecular biological and bioinformatics aspects, and we recommend using the definition in which an ORF is bounded by stop codons.

Authors: Patricia Sieber, M. Platzer, Stefan Schuster

Date Published: 26th Jan 2018

Journal: Trends Genet

Abstract (Expand)

Organisms do not exist isolated from each other, but constantly interact. Cells can sense the presence of interaction partners by a range of receptors and, via complex regulatory networks, specifically react by changing the expression of many of their genes. Technological advances in next-generation sequencing over the recent years now allow us to apply RNA sequencing to two species at the same time (dual RNA-seq), and thus to directly study the gene expression of two interacting species without the need to physically separate cells or RNA. In this review, we give an overview over the latest studies in interspecies interactions made possible by dual RNA-seq, ranging from pathogenic to symbiotic relationships. We summarize state-of-the-art experimental techniques, bioinformatic data analysis and data interpretation, while also highlighting potential problems and pitfalls starting from the selection of meaningful time points and number of reads to matters of rRNA depletion. A short outlook on new trends in the field of dual RNA-seq concludes this review, looking at sequencing of non-coding RNAs during host-pathogen interactions and the prediction of molecular interspecies interactions networks.

Authors: Thomas Wolf, P. Kammer, S. Brunke, Jörg Linde

Date Published: 29th Sep 2017

Journal: Curr Opin Microbiol

Abstract (Expand)

The metabolic flexibility of the opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans is important for colonisation and infection of different host niches. Complex regulatory networks, in which protein kinases play central roles, link metabolism and other virulence-associated traits, such as filamentous growth and stress resistance, and thereby control commensalism and pathogenicity. By screening a protein kinase deletion mutant library that was generated in the present work using an improved SAT1 flipper cassette, we found that the previously uncharacterised kinase Sak1 is a key upstream activator of the protein kinase Snf1, a highly conserved regulator of nutrient stress responses that is essential for viability in C. albicans. The sak1Delta mutants failed to grow on many alternative carbon sources and were hypersensitive to cell wall/membrane stress. These phenotypes were mirrored in mutants lacking other subunits of the SNF1 complex and partially compensated by a hyperactive form of Snf1. Transcriptional profiling of sak1Delta mutants showed that Sak1 ensures basal expression of glyoxylate cycle and gluconeogenesis genes even in glucose-rich media and thereby contributes to the metabolic plasticity of C. albicans. In a mouse model of gastrointestinal colonisation, sak1Delta mutants were rapidly outcompeted by wild-type cells, demonstrating that Sak1 is essential for the in vivo fitness of C. albicans.

Authors: Bernardo Ramirez-Zavala, Austin Mottola, J. Haubenreisser, S. Schneider, Stefanie Allert, S. Brunke, K. Ohlsen, Bernhard Hube, Joachim Morschhäuser

Date Published: 25th Mar 2017

Journal: Mol Microbiol

Abstract (Expand)

Aspergillus fumigatus is the predominant airborne pathogenic fungus causing invasive aspergillosis in immunocompromised patients. During infection A. fumigatus has to adapt to oxygen-limiting conditions in inflammatory or necrotic tissue. Previously, we identified a mitochondrial protein to be highly up-regulated during hypoxic adaptation. Here, this protein was found to represent the novel oxidoreductase HorA. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae a homologue was shown to play a role in biosynthesis of coenzyme Q. Consistently, reduced coenzyme Q content in the generated DeltahorA mutant indicated a respective function in A. fumigatus. Since coenzyme Q is involved in cellular respiration and maintaining cellular redox homeostasis, the strain DeltahorA displayed an impaired response to both oxidative and reductive stress, a delay in germination and an accumulation of NADH. Moreover, an increased resistance against antifungal drugs was observed. All phenotypes were completely reversed by the addition of the synthetic electron carrier menadione. The deletion strain DeltahorA showed significantly attenuated virulence in two murine infection models of invasive pulmonary aspergillosis. Therefore, the biosynthesis of coenzyme Q and, particularly, the fungal-specific protein HorA play a crucial role in virulence of A. fumigatus. Due to its absence in mammals, HorA might represent a novel therapeutic target against fungal infections. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Authors: K. Kroll, E. Shekhova, D. J. Mattern, A. Thywissen, Ilse Jacobsen, M. Strassburger, T. Heinekamp, Ekaterina Shelest, Axel Brakhage, Olaf Kniemeyer

Date Published: 19th Mar 2016

Journal: Mol Microbiol

Abstract (Expand)

Farnesol, produced by the polymorphic fungus Candida albicans, is the first quorum-sensing molecule discovered in eukaryotes. Its main function is control of C. albicans filamentation, a process closely linked to pathogenesis. In this study, we analyzed the effects of farnesol on innate immune cells known to be important for fungal clearance and protective immunity. Farnesol enhanced the expression of activation markers on monocytes (CD86 and HLA-DR) and neutrophils (CD66b and CD11b) and promoted oxidative burst and the release of proinflammatory cytokines (tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNF-alpha] and macrophage inflammatory protein 1 alpha [MIP-1alpha]). However, this activation did not result in enhanced fungal uptake or killing. Furthermore, the differentiation of monocytes to immature dendritic cells (iDC) was significantly affected by farnesol. Several markers important for maturation and antigen presentation like CD1a, CD83, CD86, and CD80 were significantly reduced in the presence of farnesol. Furthermore, farnesol modulated migrational behavior and cytokine release and impaired the ability of DC to induce T cell proliferation. Of major importance was the absence of interleukin 12 (IL-12) induction in iDC generated in the presence of farnesol. Transcriptome analyses revealed a farnesol-induced shift in effector molecule expression and a down-regulation of the granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) receptor during monocytes to iDC differentiation. Taken together, our data unveil the ability of farnesol to act as a virulence factor of C. albicans by influencing innate immune cells to promote inflammation and mitigating the Th1 response, which is essential for fungal clearance. IMPORTANCE: Farnesol is a quorum-sensing molecule which controls morphological plasticity of the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans. As such, it is a major mediator of intraspecies communication. Here, we investigated the impact of farnesol on human innate immune cells known to be important for fungal clearance and protective immunity. We show that farnesol is able to enhance inflammation by inducing activation of neutrophils and monocytes. At the same time, farnesol impairs differentiation of monocytes into immature dendritic cells (iDC) by modulating surface phenotype, cytokine release and migrational behavior. Consequently, iDC generated in the presence of farnesol are unable to induce proper T cell responses and fail to secrete Th1 promoting interleukin 12 (IL-12). As farnesol induced down-regulation of the granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) receptor, desensitization to GM-CSF could potentially explain transcriptional reprofiling of iDC effector molecules. Taken together, our data show that farnesol can also mediate Candida-host communication and is able to act as a virulence factor.

Authors: I. Leonhardt, S. Spielberg, M. Weber, D. Albrecht-Eckardt, M. Blass, R. Claus, D. Barz, K. Scherlach, C. Hertweck, J. Loffler, Kerstin Hünniger, Oliver Kurzai

Date Published: 19th Mar 2015

Journal: MBio

Abstract (Expand)

Candida albicans is the most important fungal pathogen of humans, causing severe infections, especially in nosocomial and immunocompromised settings. However, it is also the most prevalent fungus of the normal human microbiome, where it shares its habitat with hundreds of trillions of other microbial cells. Despite weak organic acids (WOAs) being among the most abundant metabolites produced by bacterial microbiota, little is known about their effect on C. albicans. Here we used a sequencing-based profiling strategy to systematically investigate the transcriptional stress response of C. albicans to lactic, acetic, propionic, and butyric acid at several time points after treatment. Our data reveal a complex transcriptional response, with individual WOAs triggering unique gene expression profiles and with important differences between acute and chronic exposure. Despite these dissimilarities, we found significant overlaps between the gene expression changes induced by each WOA, which led us to uncover a core transcriptional response that was largely unrelated to other previously published C. albicans transcriptional stress responses. Genes commonly up-regulated by WOAs were enriched in several iron transporters, which was associated with an overall decrease in intracellular iron concentrations. Moreover, chronic exposure to any WOA lead to down-regulation of RNA synthesis and ribosome biogenesis genes, which resulted in significant reduction of total RNA levels and of ribosomal RNA in particular. In conclusion, this study suggests that gastrointestinal microbiota might directly influence C. albicans physiology via production of WOAs, with possible implications of how this fungus interacts with its host in both health and disease.

Authors: F. Cottier, A. S. Tan, J. Chen, J. Lum, F. Zolezzi, M. Poidinger, N. Pavelka

Date Published: 1st Feb 2015

Journal: G3 (Bethesda)

Abstract (Expand)

The human pathogenic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus normally lives as a soil saprophyte. Its environment includes poorly oxygenated substrates that also occur during tissue invasive growth of the fungus in the human host. Up to now, few cellular factors have been identified that allow the fungus to efficiently adapt its energy metabolism to hypoxia. Here, we cultivated A. fumigatus in an O2 -controlled fermenter and analysed its responses to O2 limitation on a minute timescale. Transcriptome sequencing revealed several genes displaying a rapid and highly dynamic regulation. One of these genes was analysed in detail and found to encode fungoglobin, a previously uncharacterized member of the sensor globin protein family widely conserved in filamentous fungi. Besides low O2 , iron limitation also induced transcription, but regulation was not entirely dependent on the two major transcription factors involved in adaptation to iron starvation and hypoxia, HapX and SrbA respectively. The protein was identified as a functional haemoglobin, as binding of this cofactor was detected for the recombinant protein. Gene deletion in A. fumigatus confirmed that haem-binding fungoglobins are important for growth in microaerobic environments with O2 levels far lower than in hypoxic human tissue.

Authors: F. Hillmann, Jörg Linde, N. Beckmann, M. Cyrulies, M. Strassburger, T. Heinekamp, H. Haas, Reinhard Guthke, Olaf Kniemeyer, Axel Brakhage

Date Published: 7th Jul 2014

Journal: Mol Microbiol

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