BackgroundTicks and tick-borne diseases are increasing in many areas of Europe and North America due to climate change, while land use and the increased abundances of large hosts play a more controversial role. The pattern of host selection involves a crucial component for tick abundance. While the larvae and nymphs feed on a wide range of different sized hosts, the adult female ticks require blood meal from a large host (>1 kg), typically a deer, to fulfil the life cycle. Understanding the role of different hosts for abundances of ticks is therefore important, and also the extent to which different life stages attach to large hosts.FindingsWe studied attachment site selection of life stages of I. ricinus ticks on a main large host in Europe, the red deer (Cervus elaphus). We collected from 33 felled red deer pieces of skin from five body parts: leg, groin, neck, back and ear. We counted the number of larval, nymphal, adult male and adult female ticks. Nymphs (42.2%) and adult (48.7%) ticks dominated over larvae (9.1%). There were more larvae on the legs (40.9%), more nymphs on the ears (83.7%), while adults dominated in the groins (89.2%) and neck (94.9%).ConclusionsLarge mammalian hosts are thus a diverse habitat suitable for different life stages of ticks. The attachment site selection reflected the life stages differing ability to move. The spatial separation of life stages may partly limit the role of deer in co-feeding transmission cycles.
Papillon-Lefèvre syndrome (PLS) results from mutations that inactivate cysteine protease cathepsin C (CTSC), which processes a variety of serine proteases considered essential for antimicrobial defense. Despite serine protease-deficient immune cell populations, PLS patients do not exhibit marked immunodeficiency. Here, we characterized a 24-year-old woman who had suffered from severe juvenile periodontal disease, but was otherwise healthy, and identified a homozygous missense mutation in CTSC indicative of PLS. Proteome analysis of patient neutrophil granules revealed that several proteins that normally localize to azurophil granules, including the major serine proteases, elastase, cathepsin G, and proteinase 3, were absent. Accordingly, neutrophils from this patient were incapable of producing neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) in response to ROS and were unable to process endogenous cathelicidin hCAP-18 into the antibacterial peptide LL-37 in response to ionomycin. In immature myeloid cells from patient bone marrow, biosynthesis of CTSC and neutrophil serine proteases appeared normal along with initial processing and sorting to cellular storage. In contrast, these proteins were completely absent in mature neutrophils, indicating that CTSC mutation promotes protease degradation in more mature hematopoietic subsets, but does not affect protease production in progenitor cells. Together, these data indicate CTSC protects serine proteases from degradation in mature immune cells and suggest that neutrophil serine proteases are dispensable for human immunoprotection.
The complement system is activated in response to tissue injury. During wound healing, complement activation seems beneficial in acute wounds but may be detrimental in chronic wounds. We found that the epidermal expression of many complement components was only increased to a minor extent in skin wounds in vivo and in cultured keratinocytes after exposure to supernatant from stimulated mononuclear cells. In contrast, the epidermal expression of complement components was downregulated in ex vivo injured skin lacking the stimulation from infiltrating inflammatory cells but with intact injury-induced epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-mediated growth factor response. In cultured primary keratinocytes, stimulation with the potent EGFR ligand, TGF-?, yielded a significant downregulation of complement component expression. Indeed, EGFR inhibition significantly enhanced the induction of complement components in keratinocytes and epidermis following stimulation with proinflammatory cytokines. Importantly, EGFR inhibition of cultured keratinocytes either alone or in combination with proinflammatory stimulus promoted activation of the complement system after incubation with serum. In keratinocytes treated solely with the EGFR inhibitor, complement activation was dependent on serum-derived C1q, whereas in keratinocytes stimulated with a combination of proinflammatory cytokines and EGFR inhibition, complement activation was found even with C1q-depleted serum. In contrast to human keratinocytes, EGFR inhibition did not enhance complement component expression or cause complement activation in murine keratinocytes. These data demonstrate an important role for EGFR in regulating the expression of complement components and complement activation in human epidermis and keratinocytes and, to our knowledge, identify for the first time a pathway important for the epidermal regulation of complement activation.
Site-specific (13)C isotope labeling is a useful approach that allows for the measurement of homonuclear (13)C,(13)C coupling constants. For three site-specifically labeled oligosaccharides, it is demonstrated that using the J-HMBC experiment for measuring heteronuclear long-range coupling constants is problematical for the carbons adjacent to the spin label. By incorporating either a selective inversion pulse or a constant-time element in the pulse sequence, the interference from one-bond (13)C,(13)C scalar couplings is suppressed, allowing the coupling constants of interest to be measured without complications. Experimental spectra are compared with spectra of a nonlabeled compound as well as with simulated spectra. The work extends the use of the J-HMBC experiments to site-specifically labeled molecules, thereby increasing the number of coupling constants that can be obtained from a single preparation of a molecule.
The search for significantly overrepresented and co-occurring transcription factor binding sites in the promoter regions of the most differentially expressed genes in microarray data sets could be a powerful approach for finding key regulators of complex biological processes. To test this concept, two previously published independent data sets on wounded human epidermis were re-analyzed. The presence of co-occurring transcription factor binding sites for FOXO1, FOXO3 and FOXO4 in the majority of the promoter regions of the most significantly differentially expressed genes between non-wounded and wounded epidermis implied an important role for FOXO transcription factors during wound healing. Expression levels of FOXO transcription factors during wound healing in vivo in both human and mouse skin were analyzed and a decrease for all FOXOs in human wounded skin was observed, with FOXO3 having the highest expression level in non wounded skin. Impaired re-epithelialization was found in cultures of primary human keratinocytes expressing a constitutively active variant of FOXO3. Conversely knockdown of FOXO3 in keratinocytes had the opposite effect and in an in vivo mouse model with FOXO3 knockout mice we detected significantly accelerated wound healing. This article illustrates that the proposed approach is a viable method for identifying important regulators of complex biological processes using in vivo samples. FOXO3 has not previously been implicated as an important regulator of wound healing and its exact function in this process calls for further investigation.
Sepsis is characterized by a dysregulated host-pathogen response, leading to high cytokine levels, excessive coagulation and failure to eradicate invasive bacteria. Novel therapeutic strategies that address crucial pathogenetic steps during infection are urgently needed. Here, we describe novel bioactive roles and therapeutic anti-infective potential of the peptide EDC34, derived from the C-terminus of tissue factor pathway inhibitor-2 (TFPI-2). This peptide exerted direct bactericidal effects and boosted activation of the classical complement pathway including formation of antimicrobial C3a, but inhibited bacteria-induced activation of the contact system. Correspondingly, in mouse models of severe Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection, treatment with EDC34 reduced bacterial levels and lung damage. In combination with the antibiotic ceftazidime, the peptide significantly prolonged survival and reduced mortality in mice. The peptides boosting effect on bacterial clearance paired with its inhibiting effect on excessive coagulation makes it a promising therapeutic candidate for invasive Gram-negative infections.
Thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) is an interleukin-7-like cytokine expressed by epithelial cells and reported to be involved in allergic diseases and atopic eczema. The presence of several predicted ?-helical regions in TSPL, a structure characterizing many classical antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), prompted us to investigate whether TSLP exerts antimicrobial activities. Recombinant human TSLP exerted antimicrobial activity, particularly against Gram-negative bacteria. Using synthetic overlapping peptide 20-mers of TSLP, it was demonstrated that the antimicrobial effect is primarily mediated by the C-terminal region of the protein. MKK34 (MKKRRKRKVTTNKCLEQVSQLQGLWRRFNRPLLK), a peptide spanning a C-terminal ?-helical region in TSLP, showed potent antimicrobial activities, in physiological salt conditions and in the presence of human plasma. Fluorescent studies of peptide-treated bacteria, electron microscopy and liposome leakage models showed that MKK34 exerted membrane-disrupting effects comparable to those of the classical AMP LL-37. Moreover, TSLP was degraded into multiple fragments by staphylococcal V8 proteinase. One major antimicrobial degradation fragment was found to encompass the C-terminal antimicrobial region defined by the MKK34 peptide. We here describe a novel antimicrobial role for TSLP. The antimicrobial activity is primarily mediated by the C-terminal part of the protein. In combination with the previously known cytokine function of TSLP, our result indicates dual functions of the molecule and a previously unknown role in host defense.
Bacterial colonization of the lower respiratory tract is frequently seen in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and may cause exacerbations leading to disease progression. Antimicrobial peptides comprise an important part of innate lung immunity, and not least the cathelicidin human cationic antimicrobial protein-18/LL-37. Peptidylarginine deiminases (PADIs) post-translationally modify proteins by converting cationic peptidylarginine residues to neutral peptidylcitrulline. An increased presence of PADI2 and citrullinated proteins was demonstrated in the lungs of smokers. In this study, preformed PADI4, stored in granulocytes and extracellularly in the lumina of bronchi, was found in lung tissue of individuals suffering from COPD. In vitro, recombinant human PADI2 and PADI4 both caused a time- and dose-dependent citrullination of LL-37. The citrullination resulted in impaired antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and nontypable Haemophilus influenzae, but less so against Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Using artificial lipid bilayers, we observed discrete differences when comparing the disrupting activity of native and citrullinated LL-37, suggesting that differences in cell wall composition are important during interactions with whole bacteria. Furthermore, citrullinated LL-37 showed higher chemotactic activity against mononuclear leukocytes than did native LL-37, but was less efficient at neutralizing lipolysaccharide, and also in converting apoptotic neutrophils into a state of secondary necrosis. In addition, citrullinated LL-37 was more prone to degradation by proteases, whereas the V8 endopetidase of S. aureus cleaved the modified peptide at additional sites, compared with native LL-37. Together, these findings demonstrate novel mechanisms whereby the inflammation-dependent deiminases PADI2 and PADI4 can alter the activites of antibacterial polypeptides, affecting the course of inflammatory disorders such as COPD.
Epithelial linings serve as physical barriers and produce antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) to maintain host integrity. Examples are the bactericidal proteins midkine (MK) and BRAK/CXCL14 that are constitutively produced in the skin epidermal layer, where the anaerobic Gram-positive coccoid commensal Finegoldia magna resides. Consequently, this bacterium is likely to encounter both MK and BRAK/CXCL14, making these molecules possible threats to its habitat. In this study, we show that MK expression is upregulated during inflammation, concomitant with a strong downregulation of BRAK/CXCL14, resulting in changed antibacterial conditions. MK, BRAK/CXCL14, and the inflammation-dependent antimicrobial ?-defensins human ?-defensin (hBD)-2 and hBD-3 all showed bactericidal activity against both F. magna and the virulent pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes at similar concentrations. SufA, a released protease of F. magna, degraded MK and BRAK/CXCL14 but not hBD-2 nor hBD-3. Cleavage was seen at lysine and arginine residues, amino acids characteristic of AMPs. Intermediate SufA-degraded fragments of MK and BRAK/CXCL14 showed stronger bactericidal activity against S. pyogenes than F. magna, thus promoting survival of the latter. In contrast, the cysteine-protease SpeB of S. pyogenes rapidly degraded all AMPs investigated. The proteins FAF and SIC, released by F. magna and S. pyogenes, respectively, neutralized the antibacterial activity of MK and BRAK/CXCL14, protein FAF being the most efficient. Quantitation and colocalization by immunoelectron microscopy demonstrated significant levels and interactions of the molecules in in vivo and ex vivo samples. The findings reflect strategies used by a permanently residing commensal and a virulent pathogen, the latter operating during the limited time course of invasive disease.
During bleeding the skin is subjected to oxidative insults from free heme and radicals, generated from extracellular hemoglobin. The lipocalin ?(1)-microglobulin (A1M) was recently shown to have reductase properties, reducing heme-proteins and other substrates, and to scavenge heme and radicals. We investigated the expression and localization of A1M in skin and the possible role of A1M in the protection of skin tissue from damage induced by heme and reactive oxygen species. Skin explants, keratinocyte cultures and purified collagen I were exposed to heme, reactive oxygen species, and/or A1M and investigated by biochemical methods and electron microscopy. The results demonstrate that A1M is localized ubiquitously in the dermal and epidermal layers, and that the A1M-gene is expressed in keratinocytes and up-regulated after exposure to heme and reactive oxygen species. A1M inhibited the heme- and reactive oxygen species-induced ultrastructural damage, up-regulation of antioxidation and cell cycle regulatory genes, and protein carbonyl formation in skin and keratinocytes. Finally, A1M bound to purified collagen I (K(d)?=?0.96×10(-6) M) and could inhibit and repair the destruction of collagen fibrils by heme and reactive oxygen species. The results suggest that A1M may have a physiological role in protection of skin cells and matrix against oxidative damage following bleeding.
Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) is extensively distributed in primary afferent sensory nerves, including those innervating the genitourinary tract. Capsaicin can stimulate the release of CGRP from intracellular stores of these nerves, but this phenomenon has not been investigated in-depth in isolated preparations. The present study sets out to study and characterize the capsaicin as well as CGRP-induced responses in isolated mouse vas deferens. The effects of capsaicin and CGRP family of peptides were studied on electrically-induced twitch responses in the absence or presence of transient receptor potential cation channel vanilloid subfamily member 1 (TRPV1) antagonist and CGRP receptor antagonists. Twitch responses were attenuated by capsaicin (1nM-30nM) and CGRP family of peptides. The potency order was CGRP>intermedin-long (IMDL)~[Cys(Et)(2,7)]?CGRP~adrenomedullin (AM)>[Cys(ACM)(2,7)]?CGRP>amylin (AMY). These responses were disinhibited by the CGRP receptor antagonists and TRPV1 antagonists. The addition of CGRP receptor antagonists caused a transient potentiation of the twitch response and this potentiation was blocked by pretreatment with capsaicin and enhanced by incubation with exogenous CGRP. During the second consecutive cumulative concentration-response curve with capsaicin, the first phase of concentration-response curve disappeared and this was partially restored when the mouse vas deferens was preincubated with CGRP, suggesting the uptake of exogenous CGRP by nerves. Besides showing capsaicin-induced CGRP releases this study shows that exogenous CGRP can be taken up in vas deferens and can be re-released. CGRP uptake will add another dimension in understanding the homeostasis of this neuropeptide.
The Streptococcus pyogenes cysteine protease SpeB (streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin B) is important for the invasive potential of the bacteria, but its production is down-regulated following systemic infection. This prompted us to investigate if SpeB potentiated the host immune response after systemic spreading. Addition of SpeB to human plasma increased plasma-mediated bacterial killing and prolonged coagulation time through the intrinsic pathway of coagulation. This effect was independent of the enzymatic activity of SpeB and was mediated by a non-covalent medium-affinity binding and modification of the serpin A1AT (?-1 antitrypsin). Consequently, addition of A1AT to plasma increased bacterial survival. Sequestration of A1AT by SpeB led to enhanced contact system activation, supported by increased bacterial growth in prekallikrein deficient plasma. In a mouse model of systemic infection, administration of SpeB reduced significantly bacterial dissemination. The findings reveal an additional layer of complexity to host-microbe interactions that may be of benefit in the treatment of severe bacterial infections.
We recently reported that HIV-1 infection can be inhibited by innate antimicrobial components of human seminal plasma (SP). Conversely, naturally occurring peptidic fragments from the SP-derived prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP) have been reported to form amyloid fibrils called "SEVI" and enhance HIV-1 infection in vitro. In order to understand the biological consequence of this proviral effect, we extended these studies in the presence of human SP. PAP-derived peptides were agitated to form SEVI and incubated in the presence or absence of SP. While PAP-derived peptides and SEVI alone were proviral, the presence of 1% SP ablated their proviral activity in several different anti-HIV-1 assays. The anti-HIV-1 activity of SP was concentration dependent and was reduced following filtration. Supraphysiological concentrations of PAP peptides and SEVI incubated with diluted SP were degraded within hours, with SP exhibiting proteolytic activity at dilutions as high as 1:200. Sub-physiological concentrations of two prominent proteases of SP, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and matriptase, could degrade physiological and supraphysiological concentrations of PAP peptides and SEVI. While human SP is a complex biological fluid, containing both antiviral and proviral factors, our results suggest that PAP peptides and SEVI may be subject to naturally occurring proteolytic components capable of reducing their proviral activity.
We examined the epidermal gene expression during the proliferative phase of wound healing. Matrix metalloproteases were the group of proteases most prominently up-regulated in skin wounds, whereas serine protease inhibitors were the most strongly up-regulated protease inhibitors. Furthermore, we found down-regulation of genes involved in the extrinsic pathway of apoptosis. This together with the up-regulation of inhibitors of leukocyte serine proteases likely represents a protective step to ensure survival of keratinocytes in the inflammatory wound environment. The down-regulation of proapoptotic genes in the extrinsic pathway of apoptosis was not accompanied by a down-regulation of receptors indicating that the keratinocytes in skin wounds did not become less responsive to external stimuli. Examining the transcription factor binding sites in the promoters of the most differentially expressed genes between normal skin and skin wounds a significant overrepresentation of binding sites were found for STAT-5, SRY and members of the FOXO-family of transcription factors.
Streptococcus pyogenes is a significant bacterial pathogen in humans. In this study, histidine-rich glycoprotein (HRG), an abundant plasma protein, was found to kill S pyogenes. Furthermore, S pyogenes grew more efficiently in HRG-deficient plasma, and clots formed in this plasma were significantly less effective at bacterial entrapment and killing. HRG-deficient mice were strikingly more susceptible to S pyogenes infection. These animals failed to control the infection at the local subcutaneous site, and abscess formation and inflammation were diminished compared with control animals. As a result, bacterial dissemination occurred more rapidly in HRG-deficient mice, and they died earlier and with a significantly higher mortality rate than control animals. HRG-deficient mice supplemented with purified HRG gave the same phenotype as control animals, demonstrating that the lack of HRG was responsible for the increased susceptibility. The results demonstrate a previously unappreciated role for HRG as a regulator of inflammation and in the defense at the local site of bacterial infection.
This study was undertaken to assess persistence with bisphosphonates and raloxifene and to identify determinants of adherence (patient age, level of information, educational status, etc.) among women with osteoporosis in three different clinical settings in Denmark.
We examined the importance of injury for the epidermal innate immune response in human skin wounds. We found that injury, independent of infiltrating inflammatory cells, generated prominent chemotactic activity toward neutrophils in injured skin because of IL-8 production. Furthermore, injury was a major inducer of the expression of antimicrobial (poly)peptides (AMPs) in skin wounds. In human skin, these injury-induced innate immune responses were mediated by activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Consequently, inhibition of the EGFR blocked both the chemotactic activity generated in injured skin and the expression of the majority of the AMPs. The importance of injury was confirmed in mouse experiments in vivo, in which injury independent of infection was a potent inducer of AMPs in skin wounds. To our knowledge, these data thereby provide a previously unreported molecular link between injury and neutrophil accumulation and identify the molecular background for the vast expression of IL-8 and AMPs in wounded epidermis. Conceptually, these data show that the growth factor response elicited by injury is important for the recruitment of neutrophils in skin wounds.
The new NMR experiments 3D H2BC and clean HMBC are explored for challenging applications to a complex carbohydrate at natural abundance of (13)C. The 3D H2BC experiment is crucial for sequential assignment as it yields heteronuclear one- and two-bond together with COSY correlations for the (1)H spins, all in a single spectrum with good resolution and non-informative diagonal-type peaks suppressed. Clean HMBC is a remedy for the ubiquitous problem of strong coupling induced one-bond correlation artifacts in HMBC spectra of carbohydrates. Both experiments work well for one of the largest carbohydrates whose structure has been determined by NMR, not least due to the enhanced resolution offered by the third dimension in 3D H2BC and the improved spectral quality due to artifact suppression in clean HMBC. Hence these new experiments set the scene to take advantage of the sensitivity boost achieved by the latest generation of cold probes for NMR structure determination of even larger and more complex carbohydrates in solution.
Mucosal surfaces of the reproductive tract as well as their secretions have important roles in preventing sexual transmission of HIV-1. In the current study, the majority of the intrinsic anti-HIV-1 activity of human seminal plasma (SP) was determined to reside in the cationic polypeptide fraction. Antiviral assays utilizing luciferase reporter cells and lymphocytic cells revealed the ability of whole SP to prevent HIV-1 infection, even when SP was diluted 3200-fold. Subsequent fractionation by continuous flow acid-urea (AU)-PAGE and antiviral testing revealed that cationic polypeptides within SP were responsible for the majority of anti-HIV-1 activity. A proteomic approach was utilized to resolve and identify 52 individual cationic polypeptides that contribute to the aggregate anti-HIV-1 activity of SP. One peptide fragment of semenogelin I, termed SG-1, was purified from SP by a multistep chromatographic approach, protein sequenced, and determined to exhibit anti-HIV-1 activity against HIV-1. Anti-HIV-1 activity was transient, as whole SP incubated for prolonged time intervals exhibited a proportional decrease in anti-HIV-1 activity that was directly attributed to the degradation of semenogelin I peptides. Collectively, these results indicate that the cationic polypeptide fraction of SP is active against HIV-1, and that semenogelin-derived peptides contribute to the intrinsic anti-HIV-1 activity of SP.
Invasive infections of Streptococcus pyogenes are dependent on the cysteine protease streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin B. Previous structures of the enzyme have not disclosed the proper active-site configuration. Here, the crystal structure of the mature enzyme is presented to 1.55 A, disclosing a homodimer. A serine from one subunit inserts into the active site of the other to donate to the oxyanion hole and coordinates the ligand proximal to the active-site cysteine. Dimerization is unique to the mature form and is clearly a prerequisite for catalysis. The present structure supports a tripartite switch system that is triggered upon dimerization and substrate binding: (1) liberation of the active-site histidine from an inactive configuration, (2) relocation of residues blocking the substrate binding pockets and (3) repositioning of two active-site tryptophans to settle in the active configuration. Based on the present structure, the active site of clan CA cysteine proteases is expanded and a detailed mechanism of the deacylation mechanism is proposed. The results may have applications for the development of protease inhibitors specific to bacterial cysteine proteases.
NMR artifact purging: Modern NMR experiments depend on efficient coherence transfer pathways for their sensitivity and on suppression of undesired pathways leading to artifacts for their spectral clarity. A novel robust adiabatic element suppresses hard-to-get-at artifacts (see picture).
3D H2BC is introduced for heteronuclear assignment on natural abundance samples even for biomolecules up to at least 10 kDa in low millimolar concentrations as an overnight experiment using the latest generation of cryogenically cooled probes. The short pulse sequence duration of H2BC is maintained in the 3D version due to multiple use of the constant-time delay. Applications ranging from a small lipid to a non-recombinant protein demonstrate the merits of 3D H2BC and the ease of obtaining assignments in chains of protonated carbons.
Tissue factor pathway inhibitor 2 (TFPI-2) is a matrix-associated serine protease inhibitor with an enigmatic function in vivo. Here, we describe that TFPI-2 is present in fibrin of wounds and also expressed in skin, where it is up-regulated upon wounding.
Pathogenic mycobacteria reside in, and are in turn controlled by, macrophages. However, emerging data suggest that neutrophils also play a critical role in innate immunity to tuberculosis, presumably by their different antibacterial granule proteins. In this study, we purified neutrophil azurophil and specific granules and systematically analyzed the antimycobacterial activity of some purified azurophil and specific granule proteins against M. smegmatis, M. bovis-BCG and M. tuberculosis H37Rv. Using gel overlay and colony forming unit assays we showed that the defensin-depleted azurophil granule proteins (AZP) were more active against mycobacteria compared to other granule proteins and cytosolic proteins. The proteins showing antimycobacterial activity were identified by MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry. Electron microscopic studies demonstrate that the AZP disintegrate bacterial cell membrane resulting in killing of mycobacteria. Exogenous addition of AZP to murine macrophage RAW 264.7, THP-1 and peripheral blood monocyte-derived macrophages significantly reduced the intracellular survival of mycobacteria without exhibiting cytotoxic activity on macrophages. Immunofluorescence studies showed that macrophages actively endocytose neutrophil granular proteins. Treatment with AZP resulted in increase in co-localization of BCG containing phagosomes with lysosomes but not in increase of autophagy. These data demonstrate that neutrophil azurophil proteins may play an important role in controlling intracellular survival of mycobacteria in macrophages.
The innate immune factors controlling Candida albicans are mostly unknown. Vulvovaginal candidiasis is common in women and affects approximately 70-75% of all women at least once. Despite the propensity of Candida to colonize the vagina, transmission of Candida albicans following sexual intercourse is very rare. This prompted us to investigate whether the post coital vaginal milieu contained factors active against C. albicans. By CFU assays, we found prominent candidacidal activity of post coital seminal plasma at both neutral and the acid vaginal pH. In contrast, normal seminal plasma did not display candidacidal activity prior to acidification. By antifungal gel overlay assay, one clearing zone corresponding to a protein band was found in both post coital and normal seminal plasma, which was subsequently identified as ?-microseminoprotein. At neutral pH, the fungicidal activity of ?-microseminoprotein and seminal plasma was inhibited by calcium. By NMR spectroscopy, amino acid residue E(71) was shown to be critical for the calcium coordination. The acidic vaginal milieu unleashed the fungicidal activity by decreasing the inhibitory effect of calcium. The candidacidal activity of ?-microseminoprotein was mapped to a fragment of the C-terminal domain with no structural similarity to other known proteins. A homologous fragment from porcine ?-microseminoprotein demonstrated calcium-dependent fungicidal activity in a CFU assay, suggesting this may be a common feature for members of the ?-microseminoprotein family. By electron microscopy, ?-microseminoprotein was found to cause lysis of Candida. Liposome experiments demonstrated that ?-microseminoprotein was active towards ergosterol-containing liposomes that mimic fungal membranes, offering an explanation for the selectivity against fungi. These data identify ?-microseminoprotein as an important innate immune factor active against C. albicans and may help explain the low sexual transmission rate of Candida.
The Danish national return-to-work (RTW) program aims to improve the management of municipal sickness benefit in Denmark. A study is currently ongoing to evaluate the RTW program. The purpose of this article is to describe the study protocol. The program includes 21 municipalities encompassing approximately 19 500 working-age adults on long-term sickness absence, regardless of reason for sickness absence or employment status. It consists of three core elements: (i) establishment of multidisciplinary RTW teams, (ii) introduction of standardized workability assessments and sickness absence management procedures, and (iii) a comprehensive training course for the RTW teams. The effect evaluation is based on a parallel group randomized trial and a stratified cluster controlled trial and focuses on register-based primary outcomes - duration of sickness absence and RTW - and questionnaire-based secondary outcomes such as health and workability. The process evaluation utilizes questionnaires, interviews, and municipal data. The effect evaluation tests whether participants in the intervention have a (i) shorter duration of full-time sickness absence, (ii) longer time until recurrent long-term sickness absence, (iii) faster full RTW, (iv) more positive development in health, workability, pain, and sleep; it also tests whether the program is cost-effective. The process evaluation investigates: (i) whether the expected target population is reached; (ii) if the program is implemented as intended; (iii) how the beneficiaries, the RTW teams, and the external stakeholders experience the program; and (iv) whether contextual factors influenced the implementation. The program has the potential to contribute markedly to lowering human and economic costs and increasing labor force supply. First results will be available in 2013. The trial registrations are ISRCTN43004323, and ISRCTN51445682.
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