Melanins are complex biological pigments formed by the oxidative polymerization of phenolic and/or indolic compounds. These pigments have been implicated in the pathogenesis of some microbial infections, malignancies, degenerative disorders, and autoimmune diseases. Recent studies have demonstrated that melanins have antigenic and anti-inflammatory properties. These findings led us to further explore the interaction of melanins with the immune system. Melanin particles (“ghosts”) were isolated from in vitro-melanized Cryptococcus neoformans cells and Aspergillus niger conidia and then incubated in normal human serum containing 125I-labeled complement C3. The results demonstrated deposition of C3 fragments onto the melanin ghosts as early as 1 min after incubation, with maximum deposition occurring after 12 min for C. neoformans-derived melanin ghosts and after 25 min for A. niger-derived melanin ghosts. The blocking of classical pathway activation did not affect the kinetics or total deposition of C3 onto the melanin ghosts, indicating that melanins activate complement through the alternative pathway. Immunofluorescence analysis of lungs from BALB/c mice injected intratracheally with C. neoformans-derived melanin ghosts demonstrated deposition of C3 fragments onto the ghosts. Small granulomas were also observed surrounding the ghosts. However, melanization of the C. neoformans cell wall did not alter the kinetics or total deposition of C3 fragments onto the fungal cells. The finding that melanin surfaces can activate the complement system suggests a potential mechanism for the pathogenesis of some degenerative and/or autoimmune processes that involve melanized cells as well as another potential role for melanin in the virulence of melanin-producing microorganisms.
Actinomyces spp. exhibit type 1 fimbria-mediated adhesion to salivary acidic proline-rich proteins (PRPs) and statherin ligands. Actinomyces spp. with different animal and tissue origins belong to three major adhesion types as relates to ligand specificity and type 1 fimbria genes. (i) In preferential acidic-PRP binding, strains of Actinomyces naeslundii genospecies 1 and 2 from human and monkey mouths displayed at least three ligand specificities characterized by preferential acidic-PRP binding. Slot blot DNA hybridization showed seven highly conserved type 1 fimbria genes (orf1- to -6 and fimP) in genospecies 1 and 2 strains, except that orf5 and orf3 were divergent in genospecies 1. (ii) In preferential statherin binding, oral Actinomyces viscosus strains of rat and hamster origin (and strain 19246 from a human case of actinomycosis) bound statherin preferentially. DNA hybridization and characterization of the type 1 fimbria genes from strain 19246 revealed a homologous gene cluster of four open reading frames (orfA to -C and fimP). Bioinformatics suggested sortase (orfB, orf4, and part of orf5), prepilin peptidase (orfC and orf6), fimbria subunit (fimP), and usher- and autotransporter-like (orfA and orf1 to -3) functions. Those gene regions corresponding to orf3 and orf5 were divergent, those corresponding to orf2, orf1, and fimP were moderately conserved, and those corresponding to orf4 and orf6 were highly conserved. Restriction fragment length polymorphism analyses using a fimP probe separated human and monkey and rat and hamster strains into phylogenetically different groups. (iii) In statherin-specific binding, strains of A. naeslundii genospecies 1 from septic and other human infections displayed a low-avidity binding to statherin. Only the orf4 and orf6 gene regions were highly conserved. Finally, rat saliva devoid of statherin bound bacterial strains avidly irrespective of ligand specificity, and specific antisera detected either type 1, type 2, or both types of fimbria on the investigated Actinomyces strains.
The mammalian host specifically limits iron during Histoplasma capsulatum infection, and fungal acquisition of iron is essential for productive infection. H. capsulatum expresses several iron acquisition mechanisms under iron-limited conditions in vitro. These components include hydroxamate siderophores, extracellular glutathione-dependent ferric reductase enzyme, extracellular nonproteinaceous ferric reductant(s), and cell surface ferric reducing agent(s). We examined the relationship between these mechanisms and a potential role for the extracellular ferric reductase in utilization of environmental and host ferric compounds through the production of free, soluble Fe(II). Siderophores and ferric reducing agents were coproduced under conditions of iron limitation. The H. capsulatum siderophore dimerum acid and the structurally similar basidiomycete siderophore rhodotorulic acid acted as substrates for the ferric reductase, and rhodotorulic acid removed Fe(III) bound by transferrin. The mammalian Fe(III)-binding compounds hemin and transferrin served both as substrates for the ferric reductase and as iron sources for yeast-phase growth at neutral pH. In the case of transferrin, there was a correlation between the level of iron saturation and efficacy for both of these functions. Our data are not consistent with an entirely pH-dependent mechanism of iron acquisition from transferrin, as has been suggested to occur in the macrophage phagolysosome. The foreign siderophore ferrioxamine B also acted as a substrate for the ferric reductase, while the foreign siderophore ferrichrome did not. Both ferrioxamine and ferrichrome served as iron sources for yeast- and mold-phase growth, the latter presumably by some other acquisition mechanism(s).
The chitin synthase structural gene WdCHS2 was isolated by screening a subgenomic DNA library of Wangiella dermatitidis by using a 0.6-kb PCR product of the gene as a probe. The nucleotide sequence revealed a 2,784-bp open reading frame, which encoded 928 amino acids, with a 59-bp intron near its 5′ end. Derived protein sequences showed highest amino acid identities with those derived from the CiCHS1 gene of Coccidioides immitis and the AnCHSC gene of Aspergillus nidulans. The derived sequence also indicated that WdChs2p is an orthologous enzyme of Chs1p of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which defines the class I chitin synthases. Disruptions of WdCHS2 produced strains that showed no obvious morphological defects in yeast vegetative growth or in ability to carry out polymorphic transitions from yeast cells to hyphae or to isotropic forms. However, assays showed that membranes of wdchs2Δ mutants were drastically reduced in chitin synthase activity. Other assays of membranes from a wdchs1Δwdchs3Δwdchs4Δ triple mutant showed that their residual chitin synthase activity was extremely sensitive to trypsin activation and was responsible for the majority of zymogenic activity. Although no loss of virulence was detected when wdchs2Δ strains were tested in a mouse model of acute infection, wdchs2Δwdchs3Δ disruptants were considerably less virulent in the same model, even though wdchs3Δ strains also had previously shown no loss of virulence. This virulence attenuation in the wdchs2Δwdchs3Δ mutants was similarly documented in a limited fashion in more-sensitive cyclophosphamide-induced immunocompromised mice. The importance of WdChs2p and WdChs3p to the virulence of W. dermatitidis was then confirmed by reconstituting virulence in the double mutant by the reintroduction of either WdCHS2 or WdCHS3 into the wdchs2Δwdchs3Δ mutant background.
Systemic sporotrichosis is an emerging infection potentially fatal for immunocompromised patients. Adhesion to extracellular matrix proteins is thought to play a crucial role in invasive fungal diseases. Here we report studies of the adhesion of Sporothrix schenckii to the extracellular protein fibronectin (Fn). Both yeast cells and conidia of S. schenckii were able to adhere to Fn as detected by enzyme-linked immunosorbent binding assays. Adhesion of yeast cells to Fn is dose dependent and saturable. S. schenckii adheres equally well to 40-kDa and 120-kDa Fn proteolytic fragments. While adhesion to Fn was increased by Ca2+, inhibition assays demonstrated that it was not RGD dependent. A carbohydrate-containing cell wall neutral fraction blocked up to 30% of the observed adherence for the yeast cells. The biochemical nature of this fraction suggests the participation of cell surface glycoconjugates in binding by their carbohydrate or peptide moieties. These results provide new data concerning S. schenckii adhesion mechanisms, which could be important in host-fungus interactions and the establishment of sporotrichosis.
Conditions consistent with tolerance or immunoregulation have been observed in experimental Candida albicans vaginal infections. The present study investigated the role of γ/δ T cells in experimental vaginal candidiasis. Results showed that T-cell receptor δ-chain-knockout mice had significantly less vaginal fungal burden when compared to wild-type mice, suggesting an immunoregulatory role for γ/δ T cells in Candida vaginitis.
Candida albicans is both a commensal and a pathogen at the oral mucosa. Although an intricate network of host defense mechanisms are expected for protection against oropharyngeal candidiasis, anti-Candida host defense mechanisms at the oral mucosa are poorly understood. Our laboratory recently showed that primary epithelial cells from human oral mucosa, as well as an oral epithelial cell line, inhibit the growth of blastoconidia and/or hyphal phases of several Candida species in vitro with a requirement for cell contact and with no demonstrable role for soluble factors. In the present study, we show that oral epithelial cell-mediated anti-Candida activity is resistant to gamma-irradiation and is not mediated by phagocytosis, nitric oxide, hydrogen peroxide, and superoxide oxidative inhibitory pathways or by nonoxidative components such as soluble defensin and calprotectin peptides. In contrast, epithelial cell-mediated anti-Candida activity was sensitive to heat, paraformaldehyde fixation, and detergents, but these treatments were accompanied by a significant loss in epithelial cell viability. Treatments that removed existing membrane protein or lipid moieties in the presence or absence of protein synthesis inhibitors had no effect on epithelial cell inhibitory activity. In contrast, the epithelial cell-mediated anti-Candida activity was abrogated after treatment of the epithelial cells with periodic acid, suggesting a role for carbohydrates. Adherence of C. albicans to oral epithelial cells was unaffected, indicating that the carbohydrate moiety is exclusively associated with the growth inhibition activity. Subsequent studies that evaluated specific membrane carbohydrate moieties, however, showed no role for sulfated polysaccharides, sialic acid residues, or glucose- and mannose-containing carbohydrates. These results suggest that oral epithelial cell-mediated anti-Candida activity occurs exclusively with viable epithelial cells through contact with C. albicans by an as-yet-undefined carbohydrate moiety.
Pili of Neisseria gonorrhoeae are phase-variable surface structures that mediate adherence to host target cells. Each pilus is composed of thousands of major pilus subunits, pilins, pilus-associated protein PilC, and possibly other components. Piliated and nonpiliated gonococcal clones may secrete a soluble smaller pilin (S-pilin) that is cleaved after amino acid 39 of the mature pilin protein. Here, purified S-pilin was found to migrate as a 61- to 64-kDa double band on nondenaturing gels, suggesting the formation of tetrameric S-pilin proteins with two isomeric forms. In situ studies of binding to formalin-fixed tissue sections demonstrated the binding of S-pilin to human tissue but not to tissue from mouse or rat organs, showing the presence of a human-specific receptor-binding domain within the pilin polypeptide. Pretreatment of the target tissues with proteinase K decreased gonococcal binding dramatically, whereas pretreatment with neuraminidase and meta-periodate, which cleave carbon-carbon linkages between vicinal hydroxyl groups in carbohydrates, did not affect gonococcal binding. In overlay assays, purified S-pilin bound to a band with a migration pattern and size similar to those of CD46, a cellular pilus receptor. Further, binding of N. gonorrhoeae to target cells and tissues could be blocked by both CD46 antibodies and purified S-pilin. These data argue that S-pilin interacts with a protein domain(s) of the CD46 receptor on human cells.
Aspergillus fumigatus is an important pathogen of immunocompromised hosts, causing pneumonia and invasive disseminated disease with high mortality. To be able to analyze the expression of putative virulence-associated genes of A. fumigatus, the use of the enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) as a reporter was established. Two 5′ sequences, containing the putative promoters of the pyrG gene, encoding orotidine-5′-phosphate decarboxylase, and the pksP gene, encoding a polyketide synthase involved in both pigment biosynthesis and virulence of A. fumigatus, were fused with the egfp gene. The PpksP-egfp construct was integrated via homologous recombination into the genomic pksP locus. EGFP production was analyzed by fluorescence spectrometry, Western blot analysis, and fluorescence microscopy. Differential gene expression in A. fumigatus was observed. Fluorescence derived from the PYRG-EGFP fusion protein was detected during all developmental stages of the fungus, i.e., during germination, during vegetative growth, in conidiophores, and weakly in conidia. In addition, it was also detected in germinating conidia when isolated from the lungs of immunocompromised mice. By contrast, PKSP-EGFP-derived fluorescence was not found in hyphae or stalks of conidiophores but was found in phialides and conidia in vitro when the fungus was grown under standard conditions, indicating a developmentally controlled expression of the gene. Interestingly, pksP-egfp expression was also detected in hyphae of germinating conidia isolated from the lungs of immunocompromised mice. This finding indicates that the pksP gene can also be expressed in hyphae under certain conditions and, furthermore, that the pksP gene might also contribute to invasive growth of the fungus.
The purpose of this study was to identify the cell populations involved in recovery from oral infections with Candida albicans. Monoclonal antibodies specific for CD4+ cells, CD8+ cells, and polymorphonuclear leukocytes were used to deplete BALB/c and CBA/CaH mice of the relevant cell populations in systemic circulation. Monocytes were inactivated with the cytotoxic chemical carrageenan. Mice were infected with 108 C. albicans yeast cells and monitored for 21 days. Systemic depletion of CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocytes alone did not increase the severity of oral infection compared to that of controls. Oral colonization persisted in animals treated with head and neck irradiation and depleted of CD4+ T cells, whereas infections in animals that received head and neck irradiation alone or irradiation and anti-CD8 antibody cleared the infection in a comparable fashion. The depletion of polymorphonuclear cells and the cytotoxic inactivation of mononuclear phagocytes significantly increased the severity of oral infection in both BALB/c and CBA/CaH mice. High levels of interleukin 12 (IL-12) and gamma interferon (IFN-γ) were produced by lymphocytes from the draining lymph nodes of recovering animals, whereas IL-6, tumor necrosis factor alpha, and IFN-γ were detected in the oral mucosae of both naïve and infected mice. The results indicate that recovery from oropharyngeal candidiasis in this model is dependent on CD4+-T-cell augmentation of monocyte and neutrophil functions exerted by Th1-type cytokines such as IL-12 and IFN-γ.
Variable-region-identical mouse immunoglobulin G1 (IgG1), IgG2b, and IgG2a monoclonal antibodies to the capsular polysaccharide of Cryptococcus neoformans prolong the lives of mice infected with this fungus, while IgG3 is either not protective or enhances infection. CD4+ T cells are required for IgG1-mediated protection, and CD8+ T cells are required for IgG3-mediated enhancement. Gamma interferon is required for both effects. These findings revealed that T cells and cytokines play a role in the modulation of cryptococcal infection by antibodies and suggested that it was important to more fully define the cytokine requirements of each of the antibody isotypes. We therefore investigated the efficacy of passively administered variable-region-identical IgG1, IgG2a, IgG2b, and IgG3 monoclonal antibodies against intravenous infection with C. neoformans in mice genetically deficient in interleukin-12 (IL-12), IL-6, IL-4, or IL-10, as well as in the parental C57BL/6J strain. The relative inherent susceptibilities of these mouse strains to C. neoformans were as follows: IL-12−/− > IL-6−/− > C57BL/6J ≈ IL-4−/− ≫ IL-10−/−. This is consistent with the notion that a Th1 response is necessary for natural immunity against cryptococcal infection. However, none of the IgG isotypes prolonged survival in IL-12−/−, IL-6−/−, or IL-4−/− mice, and all isotypes significantly enhanced infection in IL-10−/− mice. These results indicate that passive antibody-mediated protection against C. neoformans requires both Th1- and Th2-associated cytokines and reveal the complexity of the mechanisms through which antibodies modulate infection with this organism.
Macrophage inflammatory protein 1α (MIP-1α)/CCL3 prevents the development of eosinophilic pneumonia (EP) driven by a nonprotective T2-type immunity during infection with a highly virulent strain of Cryptococcus neoformans. The present study evaluated the interaction of MIP-1α with other innate immune system cytokines by comparing the immune responses that followed pulmonary infections with high- (C. neoformans 145A) and low (C. neoformans 52D)-virulence strains. In contrast to what was found for C. neoformans 145A infection, lack of MIP-1α in C. neoformans 52D infection did not cause the development of EP. C. neoformans 52D induced tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), gamma interferon (IFN-γ), and MCP-1 in the lungs of infected wild-type (WT) and MIP-1α knockout (KO) mice by day 7 postinfection. Both WT and MIP-1α KO mice subsequently cleared this infection. Thus, the robust expression of early inflammatory cytokines in C. neoformans 52D-infected mice promoted the development of protective immunity even in the absence of MIP-1α. Alternatively, C. neoformans 145A-infected WT and MIP-1α KO mice had diminished TNF-α, IFN-γ, and macrophage chemoattractant protein 1 (MCP-1) responses, indicating that virulent C. neoformans 145A evaded early innate host defenses. However C. neoformans 145A-infected WT mice had an early induction of MIP-1α and subsequently did not develop EP. In contrast, C. neoformans 145A-infected MIP-1α KO mice developed EP and had increased C. neoformans dissemination into the brain by day 35. We conclude that, in the absence of other innate immune response effector molecules, MIP-1α is crucial to prevent the development of EP and to control C. neoformans dissemination to the brain.
Melanins are implicated in the pathogenesis of several human diseases, including some microbial infections. In this study, we analyzed whether the conidia and the yeasts of the thermally dimorphic fungal pathogen Paracoccidioides brasiliensis produce melanin or melanin-like compounds in vitro and during infection. Growth of P. brasiliensis mycelia on water agar alone produced pigmented conidia, and growth of yeasts in minimal medium with l-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (l-DOPA) produced pigmented cells. Digestion of the pigmented conidia and yeasts with proteolytic enzymes, denaturant, and hot concentrated acid yielded dark particles that were the same size and shape as their propagules. Immunofluorescence analysis demonstrated reactivity of a melanin-binding monoclonal antibody (MAb) with the pigmented conidia, yeasts, and particles. Electron spin resonance spectroscopy identified the yeast-derived particles produced in vitro when P. brasiliensis was grown in l-DOPA medium as a melanin-like compound. Nonreducing polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of cytoplasmic yeast extract revealed a protein that catalyzed melanin synthesis from l-DOPA. The melanin binding MAb reacted with yeast cells in tissue from mice infected with P. brasiliensis. Finally digestion of infected tissue liberated particles reactive to the melanin binding MAb that had the typical morphology of P. brasiliensis yeasts. These data strongly suggest that P. brasiliensis propagules, both conidia and yeast cells, can produce melanin or melanin-like compounds in vitro and in vivo. Based on what is known about the function of melanin in the virulence of other fungi, this pigment may play a role in the pathogenesis of paracoccidioidomycosis.
Virulence is the outcome of an interaction between the host and a microbe and is characterized by a large array of opposing reactions operating at the host-pathogen interface. Cryptococcus neoformans is an important opportunistic pathogen in immunocompromised patients, including those with human immunodeficiency virus, and expresses a virulence-associated laccase which is believed to oxidize brain catecholamines and iron as a defense against host immune cells. In the present report, we investigated the cellular location of laccase to understand more fully how it contributes to cryptococcal virulence. A monoclonal antibody to the C. neoformans laccase was generated and used to show localization in the cell walls of representative serotype A (H99) and serotype D (B-3501) strains by immunoelectron microscopy. In addition, confocal microscopy was used to show a peripheral location of green fluorescent protein-tagged laccase expressed in live H99 cells. Biochemical studies showed that laccase could be released from intact cells or cell wall fractions with glucanase enzymes but was retained in the cell wall after sequential extraction with 1 M NaCl, 6 M urea, and 1% sodium dodecyl sulfate. The presence of a hydrolyzable bond linking laccase to the cell wall was suggested by removal of laccase from cell wall preparations after they were boiled in 1% sodium dodecyl sulfate, as was the presence of a disulfide or thioester bond by removal with dithiothreitol or β-mercaptoethanol. These data show that laccase is present as a tightly associated cell wall enzyme that is readily accessible for interactions with host immune cells.
Candida albicans is an opportunistic fungal pathogen and a major cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with compromised immune function. The cytokine response to tissue invasion by C. albicans can influence the differentiation and function of lymphocytes and other mononuclear cells that are critical components of the host response. While the production of transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) has been documented in mice infected with C. albicans and is known to suppress phagocyte function, the cellular source and role of this cytokine in the pathogenesis of systemic candidiasis are not well understood. We have investigated the source of production of TGF-β by immunohistochemical studies in tissue samples from patients with an uncommon complication of lymphoreticular malignancy, chronic disseminated candidiasis (CDC), and from a neutropenic-rabbit model of CDC. Liver biopsy specimens from patients with documented CDC demonstrated intense staining for extracellular matrix-associated TGF-β1 within inflammatory granulomas, as well as staining for TGF-β1 and TGF-β3 within adjacent hepatocytes. These results correlate with the immunolocalization of TGF-β observed in livers of infected neutropenic rabbits, using a neutralizing antibody that recognizes the mature TGF-β protein. Human peripheral blood monocytes incubated with C. albicans in vitro release large amounts of biologically active TGF-β1. The data demonstrate that local production of active TGF-βs by hepatocytes and by infected mononuclear cells is a component of the response to C. albicans infection that most probably contributes to disease progression in the immunocompromised host.
Wild-type Legionella pneumophila grows in human macrophages within a replicative phagosome, avoiding lysosomal fusion, while nonreplicative mutants are killed in lysosomes. Wortmannin, a phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitor, blocks phagocytosis of an avirulent mutant, but not of wild-type L. pneumophila, without affecting membrane ruffling and actin polymerization. These results show that wild-type and mutant Legionella strains use different entry pathways. They suggest that PI3Ks are involved in phagocytosis of an avirulent L. pneumophila mutant and regulate the ability of microorganisms to generate a replicative phagosome.
Cell-mediated immunity by Th1-type CD4+ T cells is the predominant host defense mechanism against mucosal candidiasis. However, studies using an estrogen-dependent murine model of vaginal candidiasis have demonstrated little to no change in resident vaginal T cells during infection and no systemic T-cell infiltration despite the presence of Candida-specific systemic Th1-type responses in infected mice. The present study was designed to further investigate these observations by characterizing T-cell activation and cell adhesion molecule expression during primary and secondary C. albicans vaginal infections. While flow cytometry analysis of activation markers showed some evidence for activation of CD3+ draining lymph node and/or vaginal lymphocytes during both primary and secondary vaginal Candida infection, CD3+ cells expressing the homing receptors and integrins α4β7, αM290β7, and α4β1 in draining lymph nodes of mice with primary and secondary infections were reduced compared to results for uninfected mice. At the local level, few vaginal lymphocytes expressed integrins, with only minor changes observed during both primary and secondary infections. On the other hand, immunohistochemical analysis of vaginal cell adhesion molecule expression showed increases in mucosal addressin cell adhesion molecule 1 and vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 expression during both primary and secondary infections. Altogether, these data suggest that although the vaginal tissue is permissive to cellular infiltration during a vaginal Candida infection, the reduced numbers of systemic cells expressing the reciprocal cellular adhesion molecules may preempt cellular infiltration, thereby limiting Candida-specific T-cell responses against infection.
Interactions between dendritic cells (DCs) and microbial pathogens are fundamental to the generation of innate and adaptive immune responses. Upon stimulation with bacteria or bacterial components such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS), immature DCs undergo a maturation process that involves expression of costimulatory molecules, HLA molecules, and cytokines and chemokines, thus providing critical signals for lymphocyte development and differentiation. In this study, we investigated the response of in vitro-generated human DCs to a serogroup B strain of Neisseria meningitidis compared to an isogenic mutant lpxA strain totally deficient in LPS and purified LPS from the same strain. We show that the parent strain, lpxA mutant, and meningococcal LPS all induce DC maturation as measured by increased surface expression of costimulatory molecules and HLA class I and II molecules. Both the parent and lpxA strains induced production of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-1α (IL-1α), and IL-6 in DCs, although the parent was the more potent stimulus. In contrast, high-level IL-12 production was only seen with the parent strain. Compared to intact bacteria, purified LPS was a very poor inducer of IL-1α, IL-6, and TNF-α production and induced no detectable IL-12. Addition of exogenous LPS to the lpxA strain only partially restored cytokine production and did not restore IL-12 production. These data show that non-LPS components of N. meningitidis induce DC maturation, but that LPS in the context of the intact bacterium is required for high-level cytokine production, especially that of IL-12. These findings may be useful in assessing components of N. meningitidis as potential vaccine candidates.
The role of Candida albicans yeast-to-hypha transition in interleukin-12 (IL-12) production by monocytes was investigated. Germinating C. albicans not only failed to induce IL-12 p70 but also suppressed IL-12 production induced by heat-killed C. albicans. Comparison of the abilities of germinating C. albicans and agerminating mutants to inhibit IL-12 production showed that germination of C. albicans plays a critical role in the inhibition of IL-12 production.
In some lower eukaryotes, d-erythroascorbic acid, a five-carbon analog of l-ascorbic acid, is present instead of l-ascorbic acid. We have cloned ALO1, the gene encoding d-arabinono-1,4-lactone oxidase, which catalyzes the final step of d-erythroascorbic acid biosynthesis in Candida albicans. The ALO1 gene contained a continuous open reading frame of 1,671 bp that encodes a polypeptide consisting of 557 amino acids with a calculated molecular mass of 63,428 Da. To investigate the functional roles of d-erythroascorbic acid in C. albicans, we disrupted or overexpressed the ALO1 gene. In the alo1/alo1 null mutants, the activity of d-arabinono-1,4-lactone oxidase was completely lost and d-erythroascorbic acid could not be detected. When ALO1 on a multicopy plasmid was transformed in C. albicans, the enzyme activity and the intracellular d-erythroascorbic acid level were increased up to 3.4-fold and 4.0-fold, respectively. The alo1/alo1 null mutants of C. albicans showed increased sensitivity towards oxidative stress. Overexpression of ALO1 made the cells more resistant to the same stress. The alo1/alo1 mutants showed defective hyphal growth and attenuated virulence. Taken together, our results suggest that d-erythroascorbic acid functions as an important antioxidant and can be considered one of the virulence factors enhancing the pathogenicity of C. albicans.
To develop a new strategy to control candidiasis, we examined in vivo the anticandidal effects of a synthetic lactoferrin peptide, FKCRRWQWRM (peptide 2) and the peptide that mimics it, FKARRWQWRM (peptide 2′). Although all mice that underwent intraperitoneal injection of 5 × 108 Candida cells with or without peptide 2′ died within 8 or 7 days, respectively, the survival times of mice treated with 5 to 100 μg of intravenous peptide 2 per day for 5 days after the candidal inoculation were prolonged between 8.4 ± 2.9 and 22.4 ± 3.6 days, depending on the dose of peptide 2. The prolongation of survival by peptide 2 was also observed in mice that were infected with 1.0 × 109 Candida albicans cells (3.2 ± 1.3 days in control mice versus 8.2 ± 2.4 days in the mice injected with 10 μg of peptide 2 per day). In the high-dose inoculation, a combination of peptide 2 (10 μg/day) with amphotericin B (0.1 μg/day) and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) (0.1 μg/day) brought prolonged survival. With a combination of these agents, 60% of the mice were alive for more than 22 days. Correspondingly, peptide 2 activated phagocytes inducing inducible NO synthase and the expression of p47phox and p67phox, and peptide 2 increased phagocyte Candida-killing activities up to 1.5-fold of the control levels upregulating the generation of superoxide, lactoferrin, and defensin from neutrophils and macrophages. These findings indicated that the anticandidal effects of peptide 2 depend not only on the direct Candida cell growth-inhibitory activity, but also on the phagocytes' upregulatory activity, and that combinations of peptide 2 with GM-CSF and antifungal drugs will help in the development of new strategies for control of candidiasis.
Staphylococcus aureus is a prominent human pathogen. Here we report that intact S. aureus bacteria activate the contact system in human plasma in vitro, resulting in a massive release of the potent proinflammatory and vasoactive peptide bradykinin. In contrast, no such effect was recorded with Streptococcus pneumoniae. In the activation of the contact system, blood coagulation factor XII and plasma kallikrein play central roles, and a specific inhibitor of these serine proteinases inhibited the release of bradykinin by S. aureus in human plasma. Furthermore, fragments of the cofactor H-kininogen of the contact system efficiently blocked bradykinin release. The results suggest that activation of the contact system at the surface of S. aureus and the subsequent release of bradykinin could contribute to the hypovolemic hypotension seen in patients with severe S. aureus sepsis. The data also suggest that the contact system could be used as a target in the treatment of S. aureus infections.
The most characteristic features of the Lyme disease pathogens, the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.) group, are their ability to invade tissues and to circumvent the immune defenses of the host for extended periods of time, despite elevated levels of borrelia-specific antibodies in serum and other body fluids. Our aim in the present study was to determine whether B. burgdorferi is able to interfere with complement (C) at the level of C3 by accelerating C3b inactivation and thus to inhibit the amplification of the C cascade. Strains belonging to different genospecies (Borrelia garinii, B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, and Borrelia afzelii) were compared for their sensitivities to normal human serum and abilities to promote factor I-mediated C3b degradation. B. burgdorferi sensu stricto and B. afzelii strains were found to be serum resistant. When the spirochetes were incubated with radiolabeled C3b, factor I-mediated degradation of C3b was observed in the presence of C-resistant B. afzelii (n = 3) and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (n = 1) strains but not in the presence of C-sensitive B. garinii (n = 7) strains or control bacteria (Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Enterococcus faecalis). Immunoblotting and radioligand binding analyses showed that the C-resistant strains had the capacity to acquire the C inhibitors factor H and factor H-like protein 1 (FHL-1) from growth medium and human serum. A novel surface protein with an apparent molecular mass of 35 kDa was found to preferentially bind to the N terminus region of factor H. Thus, the serum-resistant B. burgdorferi s.l. strains can circumvent C attack by binding the C inhibitors factor H and FHL-1 to their surfaces and promoting factor I-mediated C3b degradation.
Fungal cell wall glucans nonspecifically stimulate various aspects of innate immunity. Glucans are thought to mediate their effects via interaction with membrane receptors on macrophages, neutrophils, and NK cells. There have been no reports of glucan receptors on nonimmune cells. We investigated the binding of a water-soluble glucan in primary cultures of normal human dermal fibroblasts (NHDF). Membranes from NHDF exhibited saturable binding with an apparent dissociation constant (KD) of 8.9 ± 1.9 μg of protein per ml and a maximum binding of 100 ± 8 resonance units. Competition studies demonstrated the presence of at least two glucan binding sites on NHDF. Glucan phosphate competed for all binding sites, with a KD of 5.6 μM (95% confidence interval [CI], 3.0 to 11 μM), while laminarin competed for 69% ± 6% of binding sites, with a KD of 3.7 μM (95% CI, 1.9 to 7.3 μM). Glucan (1 μg/ml) stimulated fibroblast NF-κB nuclear binding activity and interleukin 6 (IL-6) gene expression in a time-dependent manner. NF-κB was activated at 4, 8, and 12 h, while IL-6 mRNA levels were increased by 48% at 8 h. This is the first report of pattern recognition receptors for glucan on human fibroblasts and the first demonstration of glucan binding sites on cells other than leukocytes. It also provides the first evidence that glucans can directly modulate the functional activity of NHDF. These results provide new insights into the mechanisms by which the host recognizes and responds to fungal (1→3)-β-d-glucans and suggests that the response to glucans may not be confined to cells of the immune system.
The gene fnz from Streptococcus equi subspecies zooepidemicus encodes a cell surface protein that binds fibronectin (Fn). Fifty tested isolates of S. equi subspecies equi all contain DNA sequences with similarity to fnz. This work describes the cloning and sequencing of a gene, designated fne, with similarity to fnz from two S. equi subspecies equi isolates. The DNA sequences were found to be identical in the two strains, and sequence comparison of the fne and fnz genes revealed only minor differences. However, one base deletion was found in the middle of the fne gene and eight base pairs downstream of the altered reading frame there is a stop codon. An Fn-binding protein was purified from the growth medium of a subspecies equi culture. Determination of the NH2-terminal amino acid sequence and molecular mass, as judged by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, revealed that the purified protein is the gene product of the 5′-terminal half of fne. Fn-binding activity has earlier only been found in the COOH-terminal half of FNZ. By the use of a purified recombinant protein containing the NH2 half of FNZ, we provide here evidence that this half of the protein also harbors an Fn-binding domain.