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Find video protocols related to scientific articles indexed in Pubmed.
One Small Step for a Yeast - Microevolution within Macrophages Renders Candida glabrata Hypervirulent Due to a Single Point Mutation.
PLoS Pathog.
PUBLISHED: 10-01-2014
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Candida glabrata is one of the most common causes of candidemia, a life-threatening, systemic fungal infection, and is surpassed in frequency only by Candida albicans. Major factors contributing to the success of this opportunistic pathogen include its ability to readily acquire resistance to antifungals and to colonize and adapt to many different niches in the human body. Here we addressed the flexibility and adaptability of C. glabrata during interaction with macrophages with a serial passage approach. Continuous co-incubation of C. glabrata with a murine macrophage cell line for over six months resulted in a striking alteration in fungal morphology: The growth form changed from typical spherical yeasts to pseudohyphae-like structures - a phenotype which was stable over several generations without any selective pressure. Transmission electron microscopy and FACS analyses showed that the filamentous-like morphology was accompanied by changes in cell wall architecture. This altered growth form permitted faster escape from macrophages and increased damage of macrophages. In addition, the evolved strain (Evo) showed transiently increased virulence in a systemic mouse infection model, which correlated with increased organ-specific fungal burden and inflammatory response (TNF? and IL-6) in the brain. Similarly, the Evo mutant significantly increased TNF? production in the brain on day 2, which is mirrored in macrophages confronted with the Evo mutant, but not with the parental wild type. Whole genome sequencing of the Evo strain, genetic analyses, targeted gene disruption and a reverse microevolution experiment revealed a single nucleotide exchange in the chitin synthase-encoding CHS2 gene as the sole basis for this phenotypic alteration. A targeted CHS2 mutant with the same SNP showed similar phenotypes as the Evo strain under all experimental conditions tested. These results indicate that microevolutionary processes in host-simulative conditions can elicit adaptations of C. glabrata to distinct host niches and even lead to hypervirulent strains.
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Mucormycoses caused by Lichtheimia species.
Mycoses
PUBLISHED: 09-03-2014
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Mucormycoses are life-threatening infections with fungi from the order Mucorales (Mucoromycotina). Although mucormycoses are uncommon compared to other fungal infections, e.g. aspergillosis and candidiasis, the number of cases is increasing especially in immunocompromised patients. Lichtheimia (formerly Absidia) species represent the second to third most common cause of mucormycoses in Europe. This mini review presents current knowledge about taxonomy and clinical relevance of Lichtheimia species. In addition, clinical presentation and risk factors will be discussed. Proper animal infection models are essential for the understanding of the pathogenesis and the identification of virulence factors of fungal pathogens. To date, several animal models have been used to study Lichtheimia infection. A brief overview of the different models and the main conclusions from the infection experiments is summarised in this review.
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Gene expansion shapes genome architecture in the human pathogen Lichtheimia corymbifera: an evolutionary genomics analysis in the ancient terrestrial mucorales (Mucoromycotina).
PLoS Genet.
PUBLISHED: 08-14-2014
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Lichtheimia species are the second most important cause of mucormycosis in Europe. To provide broader insights into the molecular basis of the pathogenicity-associated traits of the basal Mucorales, we report the full genome sequence of L. corymbifera and compared it to the genome of Rhizopus oryzae, the most common cause of mucormycosis worldwide. The genome assembly encompasses 33.6 MB and 12,379 protein-coding genes. This study reveals four major differences of the L. corymbifera genome to R. oryzae: (i) the presence of an highly elevated number of gene duplications which are unlike R. oryzae not due to whole genome duplication (WGD), (ii) despite the relatively high incidence of introns, alternative splicing (AS) is not frequently observed for the generation of paralogs and in response to stress, (iii) the content of repetitive elements is strikingly low (<5%), (iv) L. corymbifera is typically haploid. Novel virulence factors were identified which may be involved in the regulation of the adaptation to iron-limitation, e.g. LCor01340.1 encoding a putative siderophore transporter and LCor00410.1 involved in the siderophore metabolism. Genes encoding the transcription factors LCor08192.1 and LCor01236.1, which are similar to GATA type regulators and to calcineurin regulated CRZ1, respectively, indicating an involvement of the calcineurin pathway in the adaption to iron limitation. Genes encoding MADS-box transcription factors are elevated up to 11 copies compared to the 1-4 copies usually found in other fungi. More findings are: (i) lower content of tRNAs, but unique codons in L. corymbifera, (ii) Over 25% of the proteins are apparently specific for L. corymbifera. (iii) L. corymbifera contains only 2/3 of the proteases (known to be essential virulence factors) in comparison to R. oryzae. On the other hand, the number of secreted proteases, however, is roughly twice as high as in R. oryzae.
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The pathogenic potential of the Lichtheimia genus revisited: Lichtheimia brasiliensis is a novel, non-pathogenic species.
Mycoses
PUBLISHED: 08-01-2014
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Lichtheimia brasiliensis was recently described as a novel species within the genus Lichtheimia, which comprises a total of six species. L. brasiliensis was first reported from soil in Brazil. The aim of the study was to determine the relative virulence potential of L. brasiliensis using an avian infection model based on chicken embryos.
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Identification of hypoxia-inducible target genes of Aspergillus fumigatus by transcriptome analysis reveals cellular respiration as an important contributor to hypoxic survival.
Eukaryotic Cell
PUBLISHED: 08-01-2014
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Aspergillus fumigatus is an opportunistic, airborne pathogen that causes invasive aspergillosis in immunocompromised patients. During the infection process, A. fumigatus is challenged by hypoxic microenvironments occurring in inflammatory, necrotic tissue. To gain further insights into the adaptation mechanism, A. fumigatus was cultivated in an oxygen-controlled chemostat under hypoxic and normoxic conditions. Transcriptome analysis revealed a significant increase in transcripts associated with cell wall polysaccharide metabolism, amino acid and metal ion transport, nitrogen metabolism, and glycolysis. A concomitant reduction in transcript levels was observed with cellular trafficking and G-protein-coupled signaling. To learn more about the functional roles of hypoxia-induced transcripts, we deleted A. fumigatus genes putatively involved in reactive nitrogen species detoxification (fhpA), NAD(+) regeneration (frdA and osmA), nitrogen metabolism (niaD and niiA), and respiration (rcfB). We show that the nitric oxygen (NO)-detoxifying flavohemoprotein gene fhpA is strongly induced by hypoxia independent of the nitrogen source but is dispensable for hypoxic survival. By deleting the nitrate reductase gene niaD, the nitrite reductase gene niiA, and the two fumarate reductase genes frdA and osmA, we found that alternative electron acceptors, such as nitrate and fumarate, do not have a significant impact on growth of A. fumigatus during hypoxia, but functional mitochondrial respiratory chain complexes are essential under these conditions. Inhibition studies indicated that primarily complexes III and IV play a crucial role in the hypoxic growth of A. fumigatus.
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In vivo imaging of disseminated murine Candida albicans infection reveals unexpected host sites of fungal persistence during antifungal therapy.
J. Antimicrob. Chemother.
PUBLISHED: 06-20-2014
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Candida albicans is an important fungal pathogen that can cause life-threatening disseminated infections. To determine the efficacy of therapy in murine models, a determination of renal fungal burden as cfu is commonly used. However, this approach provides only a snapshot of the current situation in an individual animal and cryptic sites of infection may easily be missed. Thus, we aimed to develop real-time non-invasive imaging to monitor infection in vivo.
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Systematic phenotyping of a large-scale Candida glabrata deletion collection reveals novel antifungal tolerance genes.
PLoS Pathog.
PUBLISHED: 06-01-2014
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The opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida glabrata is a frequent cause of candidiasis, causing infections ranging from superficial to life-threatening disseminated disease. The inherent tolerance of C. glabrata to azole drugs makes this pathogen a serious clinical threat. To identify novel genes implicated in antifungal drug tolerance, we have constructed a large-scale C. glabrata deletion library consisting of 619 unique, individually bar-coded mutant strains, each lacking one specific gene, all together representing almost 12% of the genome. Functional analysis of this library in a series of phenotypic and fitness assays identified numerous genes required for growth of C. glabrata under normal or specific stress conditions, as well as a number of novel genes involved in tolerance to clinically important antifungal drugs such as azoles and echinocandins. We identified 38 deletion strains displaying strongly increased susceptibility to caspofungin, 28 of which encoding proteins that have not previously been linked to echinocandin tolerance. Our results demonstrate the potential of the C. glabrata mutant collection as a valuable resource in functional genomics studies of this important fungal pathogen of humans, and to facilitate the identification of putative novel antifungal drug target and virulence genes.
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Pathogenicity mechanisms and host response during oral Candida albicans infections.
Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther
PUBLISHED: 05-07-2014
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Oral candidiasis remains one of the most common forms of Candida infections and occurs if the balance between host, Candida and microbiota is disturbed, e.g., by broad spectrum antibiotics or immunosuppression. In recent years, identification of fungal factors contributing to host cell damage and new insights into host defense mechanisms have significantly extended our understanding of the pathogenesis of oral candidiasis. In this review, we will provide an overview of the pathogenicity mechanisms during oral Candida infections and discuss some approaches by which this knowledge could be transferred into therapeutic approaches.
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Differential role of NK cells against Candida albicans infection in immunocompetent or immunocompromised mice.
Eur. J. Immunol.
PUBLISHED: 03-13-2014
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Little is known regarding the role of NK cells during primary and secondary disseminated Candida albicans infection. We assessed the role of NK cells for host defense against candidiasis in immunocompetent, as well as immunodeficient, hosts. Surprisingly, depletion of NK cells in immunocompetent WT mice did not increase susceptibility to systemic candidiasis, suggesting that NK cells are redundant for antifungal defense in otherwise immunocompetent hosts. NK-cell-depleted mice were found to be protected as a consequence of attenuation of systemic inflammation. In contrast, the absence of NK cells in T/B/NK-cell-deficient NSG (NOD SCID gamma) mice led to an increased susceptibility to both primary and secondary systemic C. albicans infections compared with T/B-cell-deficient SCID mice. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that NK cells are an essential and nonredundant component of anti-C. albicans host defense in immunosuppressed hosts with defective T/B-lymphocyte immunity, while contributing to hyperinflammation in immunocompetent hosts. The discovery of the importance of NK cells in hosts with severe defects of adaptive immunity might have important consequences for the design of adjunctive immunotherapeutic approaches in systemic C. albicans infections targeting NK-cell function.
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A family of glutathione peroxidases contributes to oxidative stress resistance in Candida albicans.
Med. Mycol.
PUBLISHED: 03-07-2014
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Candida albicans is a well-adapted human commensal but is also a facultative pathogen that can cause superficial and systemic infections. Its remarkable capacity to thrive within the human host relies on its ability to adapt and respond to the local environment of different niches. C. albicans is able to cope with oxidative stress in a coordinated fashion via upregulation of different protective mechanisms. Here, we unravel the role of a family of glutathione peroxidase (GPx), designated Gpx31, Gpx32, and Gpx33, in oxidative stress resistance. We show that GPx activity in C. albicans is induced upon exposure to peroxides and that this enzymatic activity is required for full resistance to oxidative stress. The GPx activity relies on the presence of GPX31, with no apparent contribution from GPX32 and GPX33 during in vitro short-term (3 h) exposure to peroxides. However, a triple gpx31-33?/? mutant exhibited a more pronounced sensitivity than a single gpx31?/? mutant on solid media in the presence of oxidants, suggesting that GPX32 and GPX33 may be involved in long-term adaptation to oxidative stress. Interestingly, reintegration of a single allele of GPX31 was sufficient to restore the wild-type phenotype in both the single and triple mutants. We found that mutants lacking GPX31-33 were more susceptible to killing by phagocytic cells, suggesting that GPxs are required for full resistance to innate immune effector cells. Despite the sensitivity to oxidative stress and phagocytes, these mutants were not affected in their virulence in the chicken embryo model of candidiasis.
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Distinct roles of Candida albicans-specific genes in host-pathogen interactions.
Eukaryotic Cell
PUBLISHED: 03-07-2014
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Human fungal pathogens are distributed throughout their kingdom, suggesting that pathogenic potential evolved independently. Candida albicans is the most virulent member of the CUG clade of yeasts and a common cause of both superficial and invasive infections. We therefore hypothesized that C. albicans possesses distinct pathogenicity mechanisms. In silico genome subtraction and comparative transcriptional analysis identified a total of 65 C. albicans-specific genes (ASGs) expressed during infection. Phenotypic characterization of six ASG-null mutants demonstrated that these genes are dispensable for in vitro growth but play defined roles in host-pathogen interactions. Based on these analyses, we investigated two ASGs in greater detail. An orf19.6688? mutant was found to be fully virulent in a mouse model of disseminated candidiasis and to induce higher levels of the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-1? (IL-1?) following incubation with murine macrophages. A pga16? mutant, on the other hand, exhibited attenuated virulence. Moreover, we provide evidence that secondary filamentation events (multiple hyphae emerging from a mother cell and hyphal branching) contribute to pathogenicity: PGA16 deletion did not influence primary hypha formation or extension following contact with epithelial cells; however, multiple hyphae and hyphal branching were strongly reduced. Significantly, these hyphae failed to damage host cells as effectively as the multiple hypha structures formed by wild-type C. albicans cells. Together, our data show that species-specific genes of a eukaryotic pathogen can play important roles in pathogenicity.
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Candida albicans utilizes a modified ?-oxidation pathway for the degradation of toxic propionyl-CoA.
J. Biol. Chem.
PUBLISHED: 02-04-2014
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Propionyl-CoA arises as a metabolic intermediate from the degradation of propionate, odd-chain fatty acids, and some amino acids. Thus, pathways for catabolism of this intermediate have evolved in all kingdoms of life, preventing the accumulation of toxic propionyl-CoA concentrations. Previous studies have shown that fungi generally use the methyl citrate cycle for propionyl-CoA degradation. Here, we show that this is not the case for the pathogenic fungus Candida albicans despite its ability to use propionate and valerate as carbon sources. Comparative proteome analyses suggested the presence of a modified ?-oxidation pathway with the key intermediate 3-hydroxypropionate. Gene deletion analyses confirmed that the enoyl-CoA hydratase/dehydrogenase Fox2p, the putative 3-hydroxypropionyl-CoA hydrolase Ehd3p, the 3-hydroxypropionate dehydrogenase Hpd1p, and the putative malonate semialdehyde dehydrogenase Ald6p essentially contribute to propionyl-CoA degradation and its conversion to acetyl-CoA. The function of Hpd1p was further supported by the detection of accumulating 3-hydroxypropionate in the hpd1 mutant on propionyl-CoA-generating nutrients. Substrate specificity of Hpd1p was determined from recombinant purified enzyme, which revealed a preference for 3-hydroxypropionate, although serine and 3-hydroxyisobutyrate could also serve as substrates. Finally, virulence studies in a murine sepsis model revealed attenuated virulence of the hpd1 mutant, which indicates generation of propionyl-CoA from host-provided nutrients during infection.
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Human Natural Killer Cells Acting as Phagocytes Against Candida albicans and Mounting an Inflammatory Response That Modulates Neutrophil Antifungal Activity.
J. Infect. Dis.
PUBLISHED: 10-25-2013
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Background.?Natural killer (NK) cells are innate lymphocytes with potent cytotoxic activity. Whereas activity of NK cells has been demonstrated against the fungal pathogens Aspergillus fumigatus and Cryptococcus neoformans, little was known about their interaction with Candida albicans.Methods.?Primary human NK cells were isolated from buffy coats, primed with a cytokine cocktail and used for confrontation assays with C. albicans. Interaction was monitored and quantified using live cell imaging, confocal microscopy, flow cytometry, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.Results.?Human NK cells actively recognized C. albicans, resulting in degranulation and secretion of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, interferon ?, and tumor necrosis factor ? . Uniquely, activation of NK cells was triggered by actin-dependent phagocytosis. Antifungal activity of NK cells against C. albicans could be detected and mainly attributed to secreted perforin. However, NK cells were unable to inhibit filamentation of C. albicans. Human polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs) counteracted the proinflammatory reaction of NK cells by preventing direct contact between NK cells and the fungal pathogen. Activation of PMNs was enhanced in the presence of NK cells, resulting in increased fungicidal activity.Conclusions.?Our results show a unique pattern of NK cell interaction with C. albicans, which involves direct proinflammatory activation and modulation of PMN activity. For the first time, phagocytosis of a pathogen is shown to contribute to NK cell activation.
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Phylogenetic and phenotypic characterisation of the 3-ketoacyl-CoA thiolase gene family from the opportunistic human pathogenic fungus Candida albicans.
FEMS Yeast Res.
PUBLISHED: 03-08-2013
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Gene families are common to all kingdoms of live and most likely derived from gene duplications with subsequent specification for the adaptation to environmental conditions. However, the exact contribution of single members to cellular physiology is difficult to predict. Here, we analysed a family of 3-ketoacyl-CoA thiolases composed of Pot1p, Fox3p and Pot13p from the dimorphic yeast Candida albicans and studied their contribution to fatty acid utilisation and virulence. The presence of three 3-ketoacyl-CoA thiolases in C. albicans contrasts the existence of only one single gene in closely related Saccharomycetales such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that two of the thiolases, Pot1p and Fox3p, were closely related to the S. cerevisiae Pot1p. The third protein clustered with yet uncharacterised thiolases from filamentous fungi. Single, double and triple mutants were generated for phenotypic characterisations. While Pot1p was of general importance for utilisation of fatty acids, Fox3p partially contributed to fatty acid utilisation at elevated temperatures. No phenotype was detectable for pot13 deletions. When virulence of the different mutants was assessed in an embryonated chicken egg infection model, no significant attenuation was observed for any of the mutants, confirming previous assumptions that ?-oxidation is dispensable for C. albicans virulence.
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NF-?B2/p100 deficiency impairs immune responses to T-cell-independent type 2 antigens.
Eur. J. Immunol.
PUBLISHED: 02-25-2013
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Formation of the splenic marginal zone (MZ) depends on the alternative NF-?B signaling pathway. Recently, we reported that unrestricted activation of this pathway in NF-?B2/p100-deficient (p100(-/-) ) knock-in mice alters the phenotype of MZ stroma and B cells. Here, we show that lack of the p100 inhibitor resulted in an expansion of both MZ B and peritoneal B-1 cells. However, these cells failed to generate proliferating blasts in response to T-cell-independent type 2 (TI-2) Ags, correlating with dampened IgM and absent IgG3 responses. This phenotype was in part due to increased activity of the NF-?B subunit RelB. Moreover, p100(-/-) ?B6 BM chimeras were more susceptible to infection by encapsulated Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, pathogens that induce TI-2 responses. In contrast to the TI-2 defect, p100 deficiency did not impair immune responses to the TI-1 Ag LPS and p100(-/-) MZ B cells showed normal Ag transportation into B-cell follicles. Furthermore, p100(-/-) MZ B and B-1 cells failed to respond to TI-2 Ags in the presence of WT accessory cells. Thus, NF-?B2/p100 deficiency caused a predominant B-cell-intrinsic TI-2 defect that could largely be attributed to impaired proliferation of plasmablasts. Importantly, p100 was also necessary for efficient defense against clinically relevant TI-2 pathogens.
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Factors supporting cysteine tolerance and sulfite production in Candida albicans.
Eukaryotic Cell
PUBLISHED: 02-15-2013
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The amino acid cysteine has long been known to be toxic at elevated levels for bacteria, fungi, and humans. However, mechanisms of cysteine tolerance in microbes remain largely obscure. Here we show that the human pathogenic yeast Candida albicans excretes sulfite when confronted with increasing cysteine concentrations. Mutant construction and phenotypic analysis revealed that sulfite formation from cysteine in C. albicans relies on cysteine dioxygenase Cdg1, an enzyme with similar functions in humans. Environmental cysteine induced not only the expression of the CDG1 gene in C. albicans, but also the expression of SSU1, encoding a putative sulfite efflux pump. Accordingly, the deletion of SSU1 resulted in enhanced sensitivity of the fungal cells to both cysteine and sulfite. To study the regulation of sulfite/cysteine tolerance in more detail, we screened a C. albicans library of transcription factor mutants in the presence of sulfite. This approach and subsequent independent mutant analysis identified the zinc cluster transcription factor Zcf2 to govern sulfite/cysteine tolerance, as well as cysteine-inducible SSU1 and CDG1 gene expression. cdg1? and ssu1? mutants displayed reduced hypha formation in the presence of cysteine, indicating a possible role of the newly proposed mechanisms of cysteine tolerance and sulfite secretion in the pathogenicity of C. albicans. Moreover, cdg1? mutants induced delayed mortality in a mouse model of disseminated infection. Since sulfite is toxic and a potent reducing agent, its production by C. albicans suggests diverse roles during host adaptation and pathogenicity.
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Serial passaging of Candida albicans in systemic murine infection suggests that the wild type strain SC5314 is well adapted to the murine kidney.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 01-01-2013
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The opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans has a remarkable ability to adapt to unfavorable environments by different mechanisms, including microevolution. For example, a previous study has shown that passaging through the murine spleen can cause new phenotypic characteristics. Since the murine kidney is the main target organ in murine Candida sepsis and infection of the spleen differs from the kidney in several aspects, we tested whether C. albicans SC5314 could evolve to further adapt to infection and persistence within the kidney. Therefore, we performed a long-term serial passage experiment through the murine kidney of using a low infectious dose. We found that the overall virulence of the commonly used wild type strain SC5314 did not change after eight passages and that the isolated pools showed only very moderate changes of phenotypic traits on the population level. Nevertheless, the last passage showed a higher phenotypic variability and a few individual strains exhibited phenotypic alterations suggesting that microevolution has occurred. However, the majority of the tested single strains were phenotypically indistinguishable from SC5314. Thus, our findings indicate that characteristics of SC5314 which are important to establish and maintain kidney infection over a prolonged time are already well developed.
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Direct analysis and identification of pathogenic Lichtheimia species by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight analyzer-mediated mass spectrometry.
J. Clin. Microbiol.
PUBLISHED: 11-30-2011
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Zygomycetes of the order Mucorales can cause life-threatening infections in humans. These mucormycoses are emerging and associated with a rapid tissue destruction and high mortality. The resistance of Mucorales to antimycotic substances varies between and within clinically important genera such as Mucor, Rhizopus, and Lichtheimia. Thus, an accurate diagnosis before onset of antimycotic therapy is recommended. Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI)-time of flight (TOF) mass spectrometry (MS) is a potentially powerful tool to rapidly identify infectious agents on the species level. We investigated the potential of MALDI-TOF MS to differentiate Lichtheimia species, one of the most important agents of mucormycoses. Using the Bruker Daltonics FlexAnalysis (version 3.0) software package, a spectral database library with m/z ratios of 2,000 to 20,000 Da was created for 19 type and reference strains of clinically relevant Zygomycetes of the order Mucorales (12 species in 7 genera). The database was tested for accuracy by use of 34 clinical and environmental isolates of Lichtheimia comprising a total of five species. Our data demonstrate that MALDI-TOF MS can be used to clearly discriminate Lichtheimia species from other pathogenic species of the Mucorales. Furthermore, the method is suitable to discriminate species within the genus. The reliability and robustness of the MALDI-TOF-based identification are evidenced by high score values (above 2.3) for the designation to a certain species and by moderate score values (below 2.0) for the discrimination between clinically relevant (Lichtheimia corymbifera, L. ramosa, and L. ornata) and irrelevant (L. hyalospora and L. sphaerocystis) species. In total, all 34 strains were unequivocally identified by MALDI-TOF MS with score values of >1.8 down to the generic level, 32 out of 34 of the Lichtheimia isolates (except CNM-CM 5399 and FSU 10566) were identified accurately with score values of >2 (probable species identification), and 25 of 34 isolates were identified to the species level with score values of >2.3 (highly probable species identification). The MALDI-TOF MS-based method reported here was found to be reproducible and accurate, with low consumable costs and minimal preparation time.
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Pyomelanin formation in Aspergillus fumigatus requires HmgX and the transcriptional activator HmgR but is dispensable for virulence.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 06-21-2011
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The opportunistic human pathogenic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus is able to produce the dark brown pigment pyomelanin by degradation of L-tyrosine. Pyomelanin was shown to protect the fungus against reactive oxygen intermediates as well as cell wall disturbing compounds and is therefore assumed to protect against immune effector cells during the infection process. Several genes for tyrosine degradation and pyomelanin formation are organized in a cluster in the genome of A. fumigatus. Here, we aimed at further analyzing tyrosine degradation and a possible role of pyomelanin in virulence. For this purpose, the function of two not yet characterized genes of the cluster, i.e., hmgX and hmgR, was analyzed. Generation of corresponding gene deletion mutants and reconstituted strains revealed that hmgX and hmgR are essential for tyrosine degradation. Both mutants, ?hmgX and ?hmgR, were not able to use tyrosine as sole carbon or nitrogen source and revealed impaired pyomelanin production. HmgR harbors a Zn(II)2Cys6-DNA binding domain. Analyses of the steady state mRNA levels revealed that HmgR acts as a transcriptional activator for the genes of the tyrosine degradation cluster. Consistently, an HmgR-eGFP fusion protein was localized in the nucleus of A. fumigatus cells. By contrast, HmgX was found to be localized in the cytoplasm and does not contribute to regulation of gene transcription. HPLC analyses showed that HmgX is crucial for the conversion of p-hydroxyphenylpyruvate to homogentisic acid, the main intermediate in pyomelanin formation. Thus, HmgX is supposed to function as an accessory factor to mediate specific activity of HppD. Remarkably, the ability to degrade tyrosine and to form pyomelanin is dispensable for virulence of A. fumigatus in a murine infection model.
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Pathogenesis of Candida albicans infections in the alternative chorio-allantoic membrane chicken embryo model resembles systemic murine infections.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 04-13-2011
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Alternative models of microbial infections are increasingly used to screen virulence determinants of pathogens. In this study, we investigated the pathogenesis of Candida albicans and C. glabrata infections in chicken embryos infected via the chorio-allantoic membrane (CAM) and analyzed the virulence of deletion mutants. The developing immune system of the host significantly influenced susceptibility: With increasing age, embryos became more resistant and mounted a more balanced immune response, characterized by lower induction of proinflammatory cytokines and increased transcription of regulatory cytokines, suggesting that immunopathology contributes to pathogenesis. While many aspects of the chicken embryo response resembled murine infections, we also observed significant differences: In contrast to systemic infections in mice, IL-10 had a beneficial effect in chicken embryos. IL-22 and IL-17A were only upregulated after the peak mortality in the chicken embryo model occurred; thus, the role of the Th17 response in this model remains unclear. Abscess formation occurs frequently in murine models, whereas the avian response was dominated by granuloma formation. Pathogenicity of the majority of 15 tested C. albicans deletion strains was comparable to the virulence in mouse models and reduced virulence was associated with significantly lower transcription of proinflammatory cytokines. However, fungal burden did not correlate with virulence and for few mutants like bcr1? and tec1? different outcomes in survival compared to murine infections were observed. C. albicans strains locked in the yeast stage disseminated significantly more often from the CAM into the embryo, supporting the hypothesis that the yeast morphology is responsible for dissemination in systemic infections. These data suggest that the pathogenesis of C. albicans infections in the chicken embryo model resembles systemic murine infections but also differs in some aspects. Despite its limitations, it presents a useful alternative tool to pre-screen C. albicans strains to select strains for subsequent testing in murine models.
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Detection of precursor lesions of pancreatic adenocarcinoma in PET-CT in a genetically engineered mouse model of pancreatic cancer.
Neoplasia
PUBLISHED: 03-16-2011
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Pancreatic cancer is among the most dismal of human malignancies. The 5-year survival rate is lower than 5%. The identification of precursor lesions would be the main step to improve this fatal outcome. One precursor lesions are called pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) and are graduated in grade 1 to 3, whereas grade 3 is classified as carcinoma in situ. Currently, no reliable, noninvasive imaging technique (e.g., ultrasound, computed tomography, magnet resonance imaging) exists to verify PanINs.
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The Candida albicans-specific gene EED1 encodes a key regulator of hyphal extension.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 02-02-2011
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The extension of germ tubes into elongated hyphae by Candida albicans is essential for damage of host cells. The C. albicans-specific gene EED1 plays a crucial role in this extension and maintenance of filamentous growth. eed1? cells failed to extend germ tubes into long filaments and switched back to yeast growth after 3 h of incubation during growth on plastic surfaces. Expression of EED1 is regulated by the transcription factor Efg1 and ectopic overexpression of EED1 restored filamentation in efg1?. Transcriptional profiling of eed1? during infection of oral tissue revealed down-regulation of hyphal associated genes including UME6, encoding another key transcriptional factor. Ectopic overexpression of EED1 or UME6 rescued filamentation and damage potential in eed1?. Transcriptional profiling during overexpression of UME6 identified subsets of genes regulated by Eed1 or Ume6. These data suggest that Eed1 and Ume6 act in a pathway regulating maintenance of hyphal growth thereby repressing hyphal-to-yeast transition and permitting dissemination of C. albicans within epithelial tissues.
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Secretome analysis of Aspergillus fumigatus reveals Asp-hemolysin as a major secreted protein.
Int. J. Med. Microbiol.
PUBLISHED: 01-18-2011
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Surface-associated and secreted proteins represent primarily exposed components of Aspergillus fumigatus during host infection. Several secreted proteins are known to be involved in defense mechanisms or immune evasion, thus, probably contributing to pathogenicity. Furthermore, several secreted antigens were identified as possible biomarkers for the verification of diseases caused by Aspergillus species. Nevertheless, there is only limited knowledge about the composition of the secretome and about molecular functions of particular proteins. To identify secreted proteins potentially essential for virulence, the core secretome of A. fumigatus grown in minimal medium was determined. Two-dimensional gel electrophoretic separation and subsequent MALDI-TOF-MS/MS analyses resulted in the identification of 64 different proteins. Additionally, secretome analyses of A. fumigatus utilizing elastin, collagen or keratin as main carbon and nitrogen source were performed. Thereby, the alkaline serine protease Alp1 was identified as the most abundant protein and hence presumably represents an important protease during host infection. Interestingly, the Asp-hemolysin (Asp-HS), which belongs to the protein family of aegerolysins and which was often suggested to be involved in fungal virulence, was present in the secretome under all growth conditions tested. In addition, a second, non-secreted protein with an aegerolysin domain annotated as Asp-hemolysin-like (HS-like) protein can be found to be encoded in the genome of A. fumigatus. Generation and analysis of Asp-HS and HS-like deletion strains revealed no differences in phenotype compared to the corresponding wild-type strain. Furthermore, hemolysis and cytotoxicity was not altered in both single-deletion and double-deletion mutants lacking both aegerolysin genes. All mutant strains showed no attenuation in virulence in a mouse infection model for invasive pulmonary aspergillosis. Overall, this study provides a comprehensive analysis of secreted proteins of A. fumigatus and a detailed characterization of hemolysin mutants.
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Approaching the secrets of N-glycosylation in Aspergillus fumigatus: characterization of the AfOch1 protein.
PLoS ONE
PUBLISHED: 08-10-2010
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The mannosyltransferase Och1 is the key enzyme for synthesis of elaborated protein N-glycans in yeast. In filamentous fungi genes implicated in outer chain formation are present, but their function is unclear. In this study we have analyzed the Och1 protein of Aspergillus fumigatus. We provide first evidence that poly-mannosylated N-glycans exist in A. fumigatus and that their synthesis requires AfOch1 activity. This implies that AfOch1 plays a similar role as S. cerevisiae ScOch1 in the initiation of an N-glycan outer chain. A ?afoch1 mutant showed normal growth under standard and various stress conditions including elevated temperature, cell wall and oxidative stress. However, sporulation of this mutant was dramatically reduced in the presence of high calcium concentrations, suggesting that certain proteins engaged in sporulation require N-glycan outer chains to be fully functional. A characteristic feature of AfOch1 and Och1 homologues from other filamentous fungi is a signal peptide that clearly distinguishes them from their yeast counterparts. However, this difference does not appear to have consequences for its localization in the Golgi. Replacing the signal peptide of AfOch1 by a membrane anchor had no impact on its ability to complement the sporulation defect of the ?afoch1 strain. The mutant triggered a normal cytokine response in infected murine macrophages, arguing against a role of outer chains as relevant Aspergillus pathogen associated molecular patterns. Infection experiments provided no evidence for attenuation in virulence; in fact, according to our data the ?afoch1 mutant may even be slightly more virulent than the control strains.
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Fungal species identification from avian lung specimens by single hypha laser microdissection and PCR product sequencing.
Med. Mycol.
PUBLISHED: 07-07-2010
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Accurate species diagnosis in cases of fungal pneumonia may be hampered by environmental contamination and colonization resulting in false-positive results. Our novel approach for fungal species diagnostics combines fluorescent staining of mounted cryosections with the optical brightener Blankophor, laser capture microdissection and PCR amplification with subsequent sequencing of the first internal transcribed spacer region (ITS-1). Using clinical specimens from infected birds, we show that the procedure is suitable for species identification from single hyphae of intralesional filamentous fungi. Our data also suggest that multiple Aspergillus fumigatus strain infections may occur frequently in pulmonary aspergillosis of birds.
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Molecular epidemiology and virulence assessment of Aspergillus fumigatus isolates from white stork chicks and their environment.
Vet. Microbiol.
PUBLISHED: 06-03-2010
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Aspergillus fumigatus is a common pathogen in poultry and captive wild birds and an emerging opportunistic fungal pathogen in immunocompromised humans. Although invasive aspergillosis is frequently reported in free-ranging wild birds, the incidence and epidemiology of the disease in a natural setting is unknown. We recently reported endemic outbreaks of invasive aspergillosis at white stork nesting sites close to human habitation in Germany with significant subsequent breeding losses. Therefore, we hypothesized that A. fumigatus strains with higher virulence in birds may have evolved in this environment and performed the first epidemiological analysis of invasive aspergillosis in free-ranging wild birds. Sixty-one clinical and environmental A. fumigatus isolates from six affected nesting sites were genotyped by microsatellite analysis using the STRAf-assay. The isolates showed a remarkable high genomic diversity and, contrary to the initial hypothesis, clinical and environmental isolates did not cluster significantly. Interestingly, storks were infected with two to four different genotypes and in most cases both mating types MAT-1.1 and MAT-1.2 were present within the same specimen. The majority of selected clinical and environmental strains exhibited similar virulence in an in vivo infection model using embryonated chicken eggs. Noteworthy, virulence was not associated with one distinct fungal mating type. These results further support the assumption that the majority of A. fumigatus strains have the potential to cause disease in susceptible hosts. In white storks, immaturity of the immune system during the first three weeks of age may enhance susceptibility to invasive aspergillosis.
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Secreted Aspergillus fumigatus protease Alp1 degrades human complement proteins C3, C4, and C5.
Infect. Immun.
PUBLISHED: 05-24-2010
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The opportunistic human pathogenic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus is a major cause of fungal infections in immunocompromised patients. Innate immunity plays an important role in the defense against infections. The complement system represents an essential part of the innate immune system. This cascade system is activated on the surface of A. fumigatus conidia and hyphae and enhances phagocytosis of conidia. A. fumigatus conidia but not hyphae bind to their surface host complement regulators factor H, FHL-1, and CFHR1, which control complement activation. Here, we show that A. fumigatus hyphae possess an additional endogenous activity to control complement activation. A. fumigatus culture supernatant efficiently cleaved complement components C3, C4, C5, and C1q as well as immunoglobulin G. Secretome analysis and protease inhibitor studies identified the secreted alkaline protease Alp1, which is present in large amounts in the culture supernatant, as the central molecule responsible for this cleavage. An alp1 deletion strain was generated, and the culture supernatant possessed minimal complement-degrading activity. Moreover, protein extract derived from an Escherichia coli strain overproducing Alp1 cleaved C3b, C4b, and C5. Thus, the protease Alp1 is responsible for the observed cleavage and degrades a broad range of different substrates. In summary, we identified a novel mechanism in A. fumigatus that contributes to evasion from the host complement attack.
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HapX-mediated adaption to iron starvation is crucial for virulence of Aspergillus fumigatus.
PLoS Pathog.
PUBLISHED: 05-21-2010
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Iron is essential for a wide range of cellular processes. Here we show that the bZIP-type regulator HapX is indispensable for the transcriptional remodeling required for adaption to iron starvation in the opportunistic fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus. HapX represses iron-dependent and mitochondrial-localized activities including respiration, TCA cycle, amino acid metabolism, iron-sulfur-cluster and heme biosynthesis. In agreement with the impact on mitochondrial metabolism, HapX-deficiency decreases resistance to tetracycline and increases mitochondrial DNA content. Pathways positively affected by HapX include production of the ribotoxin AspF1 and siderophores, which are known virulence determinants. Iron starvation causes a massive remodeling of the amino acid pool and HapX is essential for the coordination of the production of siderophores and their precursor ornithine. Consistent with HapX-function being limited to iron depleted conditions and A. fumigatus facing iron starvation in the host, HapX-deficiency causes significant attenuation of virulence in a murine model of aspergillosis. Taken together, this study demonstrates that HapX-dependent adaption to conditions of iron starvation is crucial for virulence of A. fumigatus.
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Embryonated eggs as an alternative infection model to investigate Aspergillus fumigatus virulence.
Infect. Immun.
PUBLISHED: 04-26-2010
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Infection models are essential tools for studying microbial pathogenesis. Murine models are considered the "gold standard" for studying in vivo infections caused by Aspergillus species, such as A. fumigatus. Recently developed molecular protocols allow rapid construction of high numbers of fungal deletion mutants, and alternative infection models based on cell culture or invertebrates are widely used for screening such mutants to reduce the number of rodents in animal experiments. To bridge the gap between invertebrate models and mice, we have developed an alternative, low-cost, and easy-to-use infection model for Aspergillus species based on embryonated eggs. The outcome of infections in the egg model is dose and age dependent and highly reproducible. We show that the age of the embryos affects the susceptibility to A. fumigatus and that increased resistance coincides with altered chemokine production after infection. The progress of disease in the model can be monitored by using egg survival and histology. Based on pathological analyses, we hypothesize that invasion of embryonic membranes and blood vessels leads to embryonic death. Defined deletion mutant strains previously shown to be fully virulent or partially or strongly attenuated in a mouse model of bronchopulmonary aspergillosis showed comparable degrees of attenuation in the egg model. Addition of nutrients restored the reduced virulence of a mutant lacking a biosynthetic gene, and variations of the infectious route can be used to further analyze the role of distinct genes in our model. Our results suggest that embryonated eggs can be a very useful alternative infection model to study A. fumigatus virulence and pathogenicity.
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Heptahelical receptors GprC and GprD of Aspergillus fumigatus Are essential regulators of colony growth, hyphal morphogenesis, and virulence.
Appl. Environ. Microbiol.
PUBLISHED: 04-23-2010
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The filamentous fungus Aspergillus fumigatus normally grows on compost or hay but is also able to colonize environments such as the human lung. In order to survive, this organism needs to react to a multitude of external stimuli. Although extensive work has been carried out to investigate intracellular signal transduction in A. fumigatus, little is known about the specific stimuli and the corresponding receptors activating these signaling cascades. Here, two putative G-protein-coupled receptors, GprC and GprD, were characterized with respect to their cellular functions. Deletion of the corresponding genes resulted in drastic growth defects as hyphal extension was reduced, germination was retarded, and hyphae showed elevated levels of branching. The growth defect was found to be temperature dependent. The higher the temperature the more pronounced was the growth defect. Furthermore, compared with the wild type, the sensitivity of the mutant strains toward environmental stress caused by reactive oxygen intermediates was increased and the mutants displayed an attenuation of virulence in a murine infection model. Both mutants, especially the DeltagprC strain, exhibited increased tolerance toward cyclosporine, an inhibitor of the calcineurin signal transduction pathway. Transcriptome analyses indicated that in both the gprC and gprD deletion mutants, transcripts of primary metabolism genes were less abundant, whereas transcription of several secondary metabolism gene clusters was upregulated. Taken together, our data suggest the receptors are involved in integrating and processing stress signals via modulation of the calcineurin pathway.
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Evaluation of lysine biosynthesis as an antifungal drug target: biochemical characterization of Aspergillus fumigatus homocitrate synthase and virulence studies.
Eukaryotic Cell
PUBLISHED: 04-02-2010
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Aspergillus fumigatus is the main cause of severe invasive aspergillosis. To combat this life-threatening infection, only limited numbers of antifungals are available. The fungal alpha-aminoadipate pathway, which is essential for lysine biosynthesis, has been suggested as a potential antifungal drug target. Here we reanalyzed the role of this pathway for establishment of invasive aspergillosis in murine models. We selected the first pathway-specific enzyme, homocitrate synthase (HcsA), for biochemical characterization and for study of its role in virulence. A. fumigatus HcsA was specific for the substrates acetyl-coenzyme A (acetyl-CoA) and alpha-ketoglutarate, and its activity was independent of any metal ions. In contrast to the case for other homocitrate synthases, enzymatic activity was hardly affected by lysine and gene expression increased under conditions of lysine supplementation. An hcsA deletion mutant was lysine auxotrophic and unable to germinate on unhydrolyzed proteins given as a sole nutrient source. However, the addition of partially purified A. fumigatus proteases restored growth, confirming the importance of free lysine to complement auxotrophy. In contrast to lysine-auxotrophic mutants from other fungal species, the mutant grew on blood and serum, indicating the existence of high-affinity lysine uptake systems. In agreement, although the virulence of the mutant was strongly attenuated in murine models of bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, virulence was partially restored by lysine supplementation via the drinking water. Additionally, in contrast to the case for attenuated pulmonary infections, the mutant retained full virulence when injected intravenously. Therefore, we concluded that inhibition of fungal lysine biosynthesis, at least for disseminating invasive aspergillosis, does not appear to provide a suitable target for new antifungals.
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Resection of a large intra-abdominal tumor in the Mexican axolotl: a case report.
Vet Surg
PUBLISHED: 03-10-2010
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This case report describes the surgical removal of an intra-abdominal tumor from a Mexican axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum). The animal was admitted with left abdominal swelling that had increased over 4 months.
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Polyphasic study of plant- and clinic-associated Pantoea agglomerans strains reveals indistinguishable virulence potential.
Infect. Genet. Evol.
PUBLISHED: 07-24-2009
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Pantoea species are ubiquitous in nature and occasionally associated with infections caused by contaminated clinical material. Hence, Pantoea agglomerans is considered as an opportunistic pathogen of humans. Since species of the genus Pantoea and closely related species of other Enterobacteriaceae genera are phenotypically very similar, many clinical isolates are misassigned into P. agglomerans based on the use of quick commercial-offered biochemical tests. Our objective was to find markers enabling discrimination between clinical and plant isolates and to assess their virulence potential. We characterized 27 Pantoea strains, including 8 P. agglomerans isolates of clinical, and 11 of plant origin by biochemical tests and genotyping, including analysis of 16S rDNA and gapA gene sequences, and pattern polymorphisms of ITS- and ERIC/REP-DNA. All data showed that no discrete evolution occurred between plant-associated and clinical P. agglomerans isolates. Based on the typing results, five clinical- and five plant-associated P. agglomerans strains representing the majority of clades were tested on a model plant and in embryonated eggs. On soybean plants P. agglomerans strains independent of their origin could develop stable epiphytic populations. Surprisingly, in the embryonated egg model there was no difference of virulence between clinical and vegetable P. agglomerans isolates. However, these strains were significantly less virulent than a phytopathogenic P. ananatis isolate. We suggest that, independent of their origin, all P. agglomerans strains might possess indistinguishable virulence potential.
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Identifying infection-associated genes of Candida albicans in the postgenomic era.
FEMS Yeast Res.
PUBLISHED: 04-27-2009
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The human pathogenic yeast Candida albicans can cause an unusually broad range of infections reflecting a remarkable potential to adapt to various microniches within the human host. The exceptional adaptability of C. albicans is mediated by rapid alterations in gene expression in response to various environmental stimuli and this transcriptional flexibility can be monitored with tools such as microarrays. Using such technology it is possible to (1) capture a genome-wide portrait of the transcriptome that mirrors the environmental conditions, (2) identify known genes, signalling pathways and transcription factors involved in pathogenesis, (3) identify new patterns of gene expression and (4) identify previously uncharacterized genes that may be associated with infection. In this review, we describe the molecular dissection of three distinct stages of infections, covering both superficial and invasive disease, using in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo infection models and microarrays.
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Synthesis and pharmacological activities of some sesquiterpene quinones and hydroquinones.
Bioorg. Med. Chem.
PUBLISHED: 01-13-2009
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Synthesis of protected siphonodictyal C was achieved via drim-7-en-11-al. Some sesquiterpene quinones and hydroquinones were tested for their pharmacological activities in assays in search of antiproliferative, cytotoxic, antiphlogistic, antirheumatic and anti-inflammatory drugs. Wiedendiol B is a ten times stronger cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitor than the reference compound indomethacine. Cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors are drugs with antiphlogistic and antirheumatic activity.
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Lichtheimia species exhibit differences in virulence potential.
PLoS ONE
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Although the number of mucormycosis cases has increased during the last decades, little is known about the pathogenic potential of most mucoralean fungi. Lichtheimia species represent the second and third most common cause of mucormycosis in Europe and worldwide, respectively. To date only three of the five species of the genus have been found to be involved in mucormycosis, namely L. corymbifera, L. ramosa and L. ornata. However, it is not clear whether the clinical situation reflects differences in virulence between the species of Lichtheimia or whether other factors are responsible. In this study the virulence of 46 strains of all five species of Lichtheimia was investigated in chicken embryos. Additionally, strains of the closest-related genus Dichotomocladium were tested. Full virulence was restricted to the clinically relevant species while all strains of L. hyalospora, L. sphaerocystis and Dichotomocladium species were attenuated. Although virulence differences were present in the clinically relevant species, no connection between origin (environmental vs clinical) or phylogenetic position within the species was observed. Physiological studies revealed no clear connection of stress resistance and carbon source utilization with the virulence of the strains. Slower growth at 37°C might explain low virulence of L. hyalospora, L. spaherocystis and Dichotomocladium; however, similarly slow growing strains of L. ornata were fully virulent. Thus, additional factors or a complex interplay of factors determines the virulence of strains. Our data suggest that the clinical situation in fact reflects different virulence potentials in the Lichtheimiaceae.
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Candida albicans scavenges host zinc via Pra1 during endothelial invasion.
PLoS Pathog.
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The ability of pathogenic microorganisms to assimilate essential nutrients from their hosts is critical for pathogenesis. Here we report endothelial zinc sequestration by the major human fungal pathogen, Candida albicans. We hypothesised that, analogous to siderophore-mediated iron acquisition, C. albicans utilises an extracellular zinc scavenger for acquiring this essential metal. We postulated that such a "zincophore" system would consist of a secreted factor with zinc-binding properties, which can specifically reassociate with the fungal cell surface. In silico analysis of the C. albicans secretome for proteins with zinc binding motifs identified the pH-regulated antigen 1 (Pra1). Three-dimensional modelling of Pra1 indicated the presence of at least two zinc coordination sites. Indeed, recombinantly expressed Pra1 exhibited zinc binding properties in vitro. Deletion of PRA1 in C. albicans prevented fungal sequestration and utilisation of host zinc, and specifically blocked host cell damage in the absence of exogenous zinc. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that PRA1 arose in an ancient fungal lineage and developed synteny with ZRT1 (encoding a zinc transporter) before divergence of the Ascomycota and Basidiomycota. Structural modelling indicated physical interaction between Pra1 and Zrt1 and we confirmed this experimentally by demonstrating that Zrt1 was essential for binding of soluble Pra1 to the cell surface of C. albicans. Therefore, we have identified a novel metal acquisition system consisting of a secreted zinc scavenger ("zincophore"), which reassociates with the fungal cell. Furthermore, functional similarities with phylogenetically unrelated prokaryotic systems indicate that syntenic zinc acquisition loci have been independently selected during evolution.
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Distinct intensity of host-pathogen interactions in Chlamydia psittaci- and Chlamydia abortus-infected chicken embryos.
Infect. Immun.
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Factors and mechanisms determining the differences in virulence and host specificity between the zoonotic agents Chlamydia psittaci and Chlamydia abortus are still largely unknown. In the present study, two strains were compared for their invasiveness, virulence, and capability of eliciting an immune response in chicken embryos. On breeding day 10, embryonated chicken eggs were inoculated with 5 × 10(4) inclusion-forming units. As shown by immunohistochemistry and quantitative real-time PCR, C. psittaci displayed a significantly better capability of disseminating in the chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) and internal organs than C. abortus. The higher infectious potential of C. psittaci in birds was underlined by significantly higher mRNA expression rates of essential chlamydial genes, such as incA, groEL (in CAM, liver, and spleen), cpaf, and ftsW (in CAM). Although the immune responses to both pathogens were similar, C. psittaci elicited higher macrophage numbers and a stronger expression of a subset of immune-related proteins. The data imply that invasiveness of Chlamydia spp. and propagation in the host are not solely dependent on the level of host immune response but, even to a greater extent, on the expression of bacterial factors related to virulence. The fact that C. psittaci has coped far better than C. abortus with the avian embryos response by upregulating essential genes may be a key to understanding the mechanisms underlying host adaptation and etiopathology.
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Small but crucial: the novel small heat shock protein Hsp21 mediates stress adaptation and virulence in Candida albicans.
PLoS ONE
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Small heat shock proteins (sHsps) have multiple cellular functions. However, the biological function of sHsps in pathogenic microorganisms is largely unknown. In the present study we identified and characterized the novel sHsp Hsp21 of the human fungal pathogen Candida albicans. Using a reverse genetics approach we demonstrate the importance of Hsp21 for resistance of C. albicans to specific stresses, including thermal and oxidative stress. Furthermore, a hsp21?/? mutant was defective in invasive growth and formed significantly shorter filaments compared to the wild type under various filament-inducing conditions. Although adhesion to and invasion into human-derived endothelial and oral epithelial cells was unaltered, the hsp21?/? mutant exhibited a strongly reduced capacity to damage both cell lines. Furthermore, Hsp21 was required for resisting killing by human neutrophils. Measurements of intracellular levels of stress protective molecules demonstrated that Hsp21 is involved in both glycerol and glycogen regulation and plays a major role in trehalose homeostasis in response to elevated temperatures. Mutants defective in trehalose and, to a lesser extent, glycerol synthesis phenocopied HSP21 deletion in terms of increased susceptibility to environmental stress, strongly impaired capacity to damage epithelial cells and increased sensitivity to the killing activities of human primary neutrophils. Via systematic analysis of the three main C. albicans stress-responsive kinases (Mkc1, Cek1, Hog1) under a range of stressors, we demonstrate Hsp21-dependent phosphorylation of Cek1 in response to elevated temperatures. Finally, the hsp21?/? mutant displayed strongly attenuated virulence in two in vivo infection models. Taken together, Hsp21 mediates adaptation to specific stresses via fine-tuning homeostasis of compatible solutes and activation of the Cek1 pathway, and is crucial for multiple stages of C. albicans pathogenicity. Hsp21 therefore represents the first reported example of a small heat shock protein functioning as a virulence factor in a eukaryotic pathogen.
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The two-component sensor kinase TcsC and its role in stress resistance of the human-pathogenic mold Aspergillus fumigatus.
PLoS ONE
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Two-component signaling systems are widespread in bacteria, but also found in fungi. In this study, we have characterized TcsC, the only Group III two-component sensor kinase of Aspergillus fumigatus. TcsC is required for growth under hyperosmotic stress, but dispensable for normal growth, sporulation and conidial viability. A characteristic feature of the ?tcsC mutant is its resistance to certain fungicides, like fludioxonil. Both hyperosmotic stress and treatment with fludioxonil result in a TcsC-dependent phosphorylation of SakA, the final MAP kinase in the high osmolarity glycerol (HOG) pathway, confirming a role for TcsC in this signaling pathway. In wild type cells fludioxonil induces a TcsC-dependent swelling and a complete, but reversible block of growth and cytokinesis. Several types of stress, such as hypoxia, exposure to farnesol or elevated concentrations of certain divalent cations, trigger a differentiation in A. fumigatus toward a "fluffy" growth phenotype resulting in white, dome-shaped colonies. The ?tcsC mutant is clearly more susceptible to these morphogenetic changes suggesting that TcsC normally antagonizes this process. Although TcsC plays a role in the adaptation of A. fumigatus to hypoxia, it seems to be dispensable for virulence.
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The novel Candida albicans transporter Dur31 Is a multi-stage pathogenicity factor.
PLoS Pathog.
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Candida albicans is the most frequent cause of oral fungal infections. However, the exact pathogenicity mechanisms that this fungus employs are largely unknown and many of the genes expressed during oral infection are uncharacterized. In this study we sought to functionally characterize 12 previously unknown function genes associated with oral candidiasis. We generated homozygous knockout mutants for all 12 genes and analyzed their interaction with human oral epithelium in vitro. Eleven mutants caused significantly less epithelial damage and, of these, deletion of orf19.6656 (DUR31) elicited the strongest reduction in pathogenicity. Interestingly, DUR31 was not only involved in oral epithelial damage, but in multiple stages of candidiasis, including surviving attack by human neutrophils, endothelial damage and virulence in vivo. In silico analysis indicated that DUR31 encodes a sodium/substrate symporter with 13 transmembrane domains and no human homologue. We provide evidence that Dur31 transports histatin 5. This is one of the very first examples of microbial driven import of this highly cytotoxic antimicrobial peptide. Also, in contrast to wild type C. albicans, dur31?/? was unable to actively increase local environmental pH, suggesting that Dur31 lies in the extracellular alkalinization hyphal auto-induction pathway; and, indeed, DUR31 was required for morphogenesis. In agreement with this observation, dur31?/? was unable to assimilate the polyamine spermidine.
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Murine infection models for Aspergillus terreus pulmonary aspergillosis reveal long-term persistence of conidia and liver degeneration.
J. Infect. Dis.
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Aspergillus terreus is emerging as a causative agent of life-threatening invasive aspergillosis. Prognosis for affected patients is often worse than for A. fumigatus infections. To study A. terreus-mediated disease, we developed 3 infection models. In embryonated hens eggs and leucopenic mice, the outcome of invasive aspergillosis was similar to that described for A. fumigatus. However, 10(2)- and 10(3)-fold higher conidia concentrations were required for 100% lethality. In corticosteroid-treated mice, only 50% mortality was observed, although bioluminescence imaging revealed transient disease in all infected animals. In surviving animals, we observed persistence of ungerminated but viable conidia. Cytokine levels in these mice were comparable to uninfected controls. In contrast to A. fumigatus infections, all mice infected with A. terreus developed fatty liver degeneration, suggesting the production of toxic secondary metabolites. Thus, at least in mice, persistence and subclinical liver damage are unique features of A. terreus infections.
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Embryonated chicken eggs as alternative infection model for pathogenic fungi.
Methods Mol. Biol.
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Embryonated eggs have been used as infection models for decades in virology and bacteriology. However, they can also be used as an attractive alternative infection model for studying fungal pathogenesis. Here, we discuss some general aspects which need to be considered when working with embryonated eggs as infection models. Furthermore, we provide detailed protocols and technical tips for infection of embryonated eggs with Aspergillus fumigatus and Candida albicans via the chorioallantois membrane, as well as sampling methods for downstream analyses.
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Persistence versus escape: Aspergillus terreus and Aspergillus fumigatus employ different strategies during interactions with macrophages.
PLoS ONE
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Invasive bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (IBPA) is a life-threatening disease in immunocompromised patients. Although Aspergillus terreus is frequently found in the environment, A. fumigatus is by far the main cause of IBPA. However, once A. terreus establishes infection in the host, disease is as fatal as A. fumigatus infections. Thus, we hypothesized that the initial steps of disease establishment might be fundamentally different between these two species. Since alveolar macrophages represent one of the first phagocytes facing inhaled conidia, we compared the interaction of A. terreus and A. fumigatus conidia with alveolar macrophages. A. terreus conidia were phagocytosed more rapidly than A. fumigatus conidia, possibly due to higher exposure of ?-1,3-glucan and galactomannan on the surface. In agreement, blocking of dectin-1 and mannose receptors significantly reduced phagocytosis of A. terreus, but had only a moderate effect on phagocytosis of A. fumigatus. Once phagocytosed, and in contrast to A. fumigatus, A. terreus did not inhibit acidification of phagolysosomes, but remained viable without signs of germination both in vitro and in immunocompetent mice. The inability of A. terreus to germinate and pierce macrophages resulted in significantly lower cytotoxicity compared to A. fumigatus. Blocking phagolysosome acidification by the v-ATPase inhibitor bafilomycin increased A. terreus germination rates and cytotoxicity. Recombinant expression of the A. nidulans wA naphthopyrone synthase, a homologue of A. fumigatus PksP, inhibited phagolysosome acidification and resulted in increased germination, macrophage damage and virulence in corticosteroid-treated mice. In summary, we show that A. terreus and A. fumigatus have evolved significantly different strategies to survive the attack of host immune cells. While A. fumigatus prevents phagocytosis and phagolysosome acidification and escapes from macrophages by germination, A. terreus is rapidly phagocytosed, but conidia show long-term persistence in macrophages even in immunocompetent hosts.
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