Cryptococcal induced visual loss is a devastating complication in survivors of cryptococcal meningitis (CM). Early detection is paramount in prevention and treatment. Subclinical optic nerve dysfunction in CM has not hitherto been investigated by electrophysiological means. We undertook a prospective study on 90 HIV sero-positive patients with culture confirmed CM. Seventy-four patients underwent visual evoked potential (VEP) testing and 47 patients underwent Humphrey's visual field (HVF) testing. Decreased best corrected visual acuity (BCVA) was detected in 46.5% of patients. VEP was abnormal in 51/74 (68.9%) right eyes and 50/74 (67.6%) left eyes. VEP P100 latency was the main abnormality with mean latency values of 118.9 (±16.5) ms and 119.8 (±15.7) ms for the right and left eyes respectively, mildly prolonged when compared to our laboratory references of 104 (±10) ms (p<0.001). Subclinical VEP abnormality was detected in 56.5% of normal eyes and constituted mostly latency abnormality. VEP amplitude was also significantly reduced in this cohort but minimally so in the visually unimpaired. HVF was abnormal in 36/47 (76.6%) right eyes and 32/45 (71.1%) left eyes. The predominant field defect was peripheral constriction with an enlarged blind spot suggesting the greater impact by raised intracranial pressure over that of optic neuritis. Whether this was due to papilloedema or a compartment syndrome is open to further investigation. Subclinical HVF abnormalities were minimal and therefore a poor screening test for early optic nerve dysfunction. However, early optic nerve dysfunction can be detected by testing of VEP P100 latency, which may precede the onset of visual loss in CM.
Background and Purpose
Successful outcomes from bacterial meningitis require rapid antibiotic treatment; however, unnecessary treatment of viral meningitis may lead to increased toxicities and expense. Thus, improved diagnostics are required to maximize treatment and minimize side effects and cost. Thirteen clinical decision rules have been reported to identify bacterial from viral meningitis. However, few rules have been tested and compared in a single study, while several rules are yet to be tested by independent researchers or in pediatric populations. Thus, simultaneous test and comparison of these rules are required to enable clinicians to select an optimal diagnostic rule for bacterial meningitis in settings and populations similar to ours.
A retrospective cross-sectional study was conducted at the Infectious Department of Pediatric Hospital Number 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The performance of the clinical rules was evaluated by area under a receiver operating characteristic curve (ROC-AUC) using the method of DeLong and McNemar test for specificity comparison.
Our study included 129 patients, of whom 80 had bacterial meningitis and 49 had presumed viral meningitis. Spanos's rule had the highest AUC at 0.938 but was not significantly greater than other rules. No rule provided 100% sensitivity with a specificity higher than 50%. Based on our calculation of theoretical sensitivity and specificity, we suggest that a perfect rule requires at least four independent variables that posses both sensitivity and specificity higher than 85–90%.
No clinical decision rules provided an acceptable specificity (>50%) with 100% sensitivity when applying our data set in children. More studies in Vietnam and developing countries are required to develop and/or validate clinical rules and more very good biomarkers are required to develop such a perfect rule.
The model cellulolytic fungus Trichoderma reesei (teleomorph Hypocrea jecorina) is capable of responding to environmental cues to compete for nutrients in its natural saprophytic habitat despite its genome encodes fewer degradative enzymes. Efficient signalling pathways in perception and interpretation of environmental signals are indispensable in this process. Ras GTPases represent a kind of critical signal proteins involved in signal transduction and regulation of gene expression. In T. reesei the genome contains two Ras subfamily small GTPases TrRas1 and TrRas2 homologous to Ras1 and Ras2 from S. cerevisiae, but their functions remain unknown.
Here, we have investigated the roles of GTPases TrRas1 and TrRas2 during fungal morphogenesis and cellulase gene expression. We show that both TrRas1 and TrRas2 play important roles in some cellular processes such as polarized apical growth, hyphal branch formation, sporulation and cAMP level adjustment, while TrRas1 is more dominant in these processes. Strikingly, we find that TrRas2 is involved in modulation of cellulase gene expression. Deletion of TrRas2 results in considerably decreased transcription of cellulolytic genes upon growth on cellulose. Although the strain carrying a constitutively activated TrRas2G16V allele exhibits increased cellulase gene transcription, the cbh1 and cbh2 expression in this mutant still strictly depends on cellulose, indicating TrRas2 does not directly mediate the transmission of the cellulose signal. In addition, our data suggest that the effect of TrRas2 on cellulase gene is exerted through regulation of transcript abundance of cellulase transcription factors such as Xyr1, but the influence is independent of cAMP signalling pathway.
Together, these findings elucidate the functions for Ras signalling of T. reesei in cellular morphogenesis, especially in cellulase gene expression, which contribute to deciphering the powerful competitive ability of plant cell wall degrading fungi in nature.
The disease cryptococcosis, caused by the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans, is acquired directly from environmental exposure rather than transmitted person-to-person. One explanation for the pathogenicity of this species is that interactions with environmental predators select for virulence. However, co-incubation of C. neoformans with amoeba can cause a “switch” from the normal yeast morphology to a pseudohyphal form, enabling fungi to survive exposure to amoeba, yet conversely reducing virulence in mammalian models of cryptococcosis. Like other human pathogenic fungi, C. neoformans is capable of microevolutionary changes that influence the biology of the organism and outcome of the host-pathogen interaction. A yeast-pseudohyphal phenotypic switch also happens under in vitro conditions. Here, we demonstrate that this morphological switch, rather than being under epigenetic control, is controlled by DNA mutation since all pseudohyphal strains bear mutations within genes encoding components of the RAM pathway. High rates of isolation of pseudohyphal strains can be explained by the physical size of RAM pathway genes and a hypermutator phenotype of the strain used in phenotypic switching studies. Reversion to wild type yeast morphology in vitro or within a mammalian host can occur through different mechanisms, with one being counter-acting mutations. Infection of mice with RAM mutants reveals several outcomes: clearance of the infection, asymptomatic maintenance of the strains, or reversion to wild type forms and progression of disease. These findings demonstrate a key role of mutation events in microevolution to modulate the ability of a fungal pathogen to cause disease.
Many diseases are contracted from the environment, rather than from sick people. It is unclear why those species are able to cause disease, since the selective pressures in the environment are presumed to be very different from those found within the host. Cryptococcus neoformans is a fungus that causes life-threatening lung and central nervous system disease in approximately one million people each year. The fungus is inhaled from environmental sources. One hypothesis to account for C. neoformans virulence is that amoeba are predators for this fungus, and surviving strains are pre-selected to be virulent in the human host. On the other hand, experiments have found that amoeba eat C. neoformans. A pseudohyphal cell type can survive, and while protecting against amoeba these cells are unable to cause disease in mouse models. We predicted that the pseudohyphal morphology reflected a change in function of a pathway of genes, and found that all pseudohyphal isolates contain mutations within genes for this pathway. The pseudohyphal trait is unstable, with reversion to normal yeast growth by counter-acting mutations. These mutations can occur during the course of mammalian infection. Our results show that mutation events account for a microevolution system currently described as phenotypic switching, and that mutations, at least under experimental conditions, can regulate pathogen adaptation and influence its host range.
Casein kinases regulate a wide range of cellular functions in eukaryotes, including phosphorylation of proteins that are substrates for degradation via the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS). Our previous study demonstrated that Fbp1, a component of the SCFFBP1 E3 ligase complex, was essential for Cryptococcus virulence. Because the Saccharomyces cerevisiae homolog of Fbp1, Grr1, requires casein kinase I (Yck1 and Yck2) to phosphorylate its substrates, we investigated the function of casein kinase I in Cryptococcus neoformans. In this report, we identified a C. neoformans casein kinase I protein homolog, Cck1. Similar to Fbp1, the expression of Cck1 is negatively regulated by glucose and during mating. cck1 null mutants showed significant virulence attenuation in a murine systemic infection model, but Cck1 was dispensable for the development of classical virulence factors (capsule, melanin, and growth at 37°C). cck1 mutants were hypersensitive to SDS treatment, indicating that Cck1 is required for cell integrity. The functional overlap between Cck1 and Fbp1 suggests that Cck1 may be required for the phosphorylation of Fbp1 substrates. Interestingly, the cck1 mutant also showed increased sensitivity to osmotic stress and oxidative stress, suggesting that Cck1 regulates both cell integrity and the cellular stress response. Our results show that Cck1 regulates the phosphorylation of both Mpk1 and Hog1 mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), demonstrating that Cck1 regulates cell integrity via the Mpk1 pathway and regulates cell adaptation to stresses via the Hog1 pathway. Overall, our study revealed that Cck1 plays important roles in regulating multiple signaling pathways and is required for fungal pathogenicity.
The titan cell is a recently described morphological form of the pathogenic fungus Cryptococcus neoformans. Occurring during the earliest stages of lung infection, titan cells are 5 to 10 times larger than the normal yeast-like cells, thereby resisting engulfment by lung phagocytes and favoring the persistence of infection. These enlarged cells exhibit an altered capsule structure, a thickened cell wall, increased ploidy, and resistance to nitrosative and oxidative stresses. We demonstrate that two G-protein-coupled receptors are important for induction of the titan cell phenotype: the Ste3a pheromone receptor (in mating type a cells) and the Gpr5 protein. Both receptors control titan cell formation through elements of the cyclic AMP (cAMP)/protein kinase A (PKA) pathway. This conserved signaling pathway, in turn, mediates its effect on titan cells through the PKA-regulated Rim101 transcription factor. Additional downstream effectors required for titan cell formation include the G1 cyclin Pcl103, the Rho104 GTPase, and two GTPase-activating proteins, Gap1 and Cnc1560. These observations support developing models in which the PKA signaling pathway coordinately regulates many virulence-associated phenotypes in diverse human pathogens.
Fungal meningitis is a serious disease caused by a fungal infection of the central nervous system (CNS) mostly in individuals with immune system deficiencies. Fungal meningitis is often fatal without proper treatment, and the mortality rate remains unacceptably high even with antifungal drug interventions. Currently, cryptococcal meningitis is the most common fungal meningitis in HIV-1/AIDS, and its disease mechanism has been extensively studied. The key steps for fungi to infect brain and cause meningitis after establishment of local infection are the dissemination of fungal cells to the bloodstream and invasion through the blood brain barrier to reach the CNS. In this review, we use cryptococcal CNS infection as an example to describe the current molecular understanding of fungal meningitis, including the establishment of the infection, dissemination, and brain invasion. Host and microbial factors that contribute to these infection steps are also discussed.
Cryptococcus neoformans; blood-brain barrier; central nervous system; fungus; infection; meningitis
In the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae, the PMK1 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase gene regulates appressorium formation and infectious growth. Its homologs in many other fungi also play critical roles in fungal development and pathogenicity. However, the targets of this important MAP kinase and its interacting genes are not well characterized. In this study, we constructed two yeast two-hybrid libraries of M. oryzae and screened for Pmk1-interacting proteins. Among the nine Pmk1-interacting clones (PICs) identified, two of them, PIC1 and PIC5, were selected for further characterization. Pic1 has one putative nuclear localization signal and one putative MAP kinase phosphorylation site. Pic5 contains one transmembrane domain and two functionally unknown CTNS (cystinosin/ERS1p repeat) motifs. The interaction of Pmk1 with Pic1 or Pic5 was confirmed by coimmunoprecipitation assays. Targeted gene deletion of PIC1 had no apparent effects on vegetative growth and pathogenicity but resulted in a significant reduction in conidiation and abnormal germ tube differentiation on onion epidermal cells. Deletion of PIC5 led to a reduction in conidiation and hyphal growth. Autolysis of aerial hyphae became visible in cultures older than 4 days. The pic5 mutant was defective in germ tube growth and appressorium differentiation. It was reduced in appressorial penetration and virulence on the plant. Both PIC1 and PIC5 are conserved in filamentous ascomycetes, but none of their orthologs have been functionally characterized. Our data indicate that PIC5 is a novel virulence factor involved in appressorium differentiation and pathogenesis in M. oryzae.
G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) in humans are classified into the five main families named Glutamate, Rhodopsin, Adhesion, Frizzled and Secretin according to the GRAFS classification. Previous results show that these mammalian GRAFS families are well represented in the Metazoan lineages, but they have not been shown to be present in Fungi. Here, we systematically mined 79 fungal genomes and provide the first evidence that four of the five main mammalian families of GPCRs, namely Rhodopsin, Adhesion, Glutamate and Frizzled, are present in Fungi and found 142 novel sequences between them. Significantly, we provide strong evidence that the Rhodopsin family emerged from the cAMP receptor family in an event close to the split of Opisthokonts and not in Placozoa, as earlier assumed. The Rhodopsin family then expanded greatly in Metazoans while the cAMP receptor family is found in 3 invertebrate species and lost in the vertebrates. We estimate that the Adhesion and Frizzled families evolved before the split of Unikonts from a common ancestor of all major eukaryotic lineages. Also, the study highlights that the fungal Adhesion receptors do not have N-terminal domains whereas the fungal Glutamate receptors have a broad repertoire of mammalian-like N-terminal domains. Further, mining of the close unicellular relatives of the Metazoan lineage, Salpingoeca rosetta and Capsaspora owczarzaki, obtained a rich group of both the Adhesion and Glutamate families, which in particular provided insight to the early emergence of the N-terminal domains of the Adhesion family. We identified 619 Fungi specific GPCRs across 79 genomes and revealed that Blastocladiomycota and Chytridiomycota phylum have Metazoan-like GPCRs rather than the GPCRs specific for Fungi. Overall, this study provides the first evidence of the presence of four of the five main GRAFS families in Fungi and clarifies the early evolutionary history of the GPCR superfamily.
Cryptococcus neoformans is the leading cause of fungal meningitis in immunocomprised populations. Although extensive studies have been conducted on signal transduction pathways important for fungal sexual reproduction and virulence, how fungal virulence is regulated during infection is still not understood. In this study, we identified the F-box protein Fbp1, which contains a putative F-box domain and 12 leucine-rich repeats (LRR). Although fbp1 mutants showed normal growth and produced normal major virulence factors, such as melanin and capsule, Fbp1 was found to be essential for fungal virulence, as fbp1 mutants were avirulent in a murine systemic-infection model. Fbp1 is also important for fungal sexual reproduction. Basidiospore production was blocked in bilateral mating between fbp1 mutants, even though normal dikaryotic hyphae were observed during mating. In vitro assays of stress responses revealed that fbp1 mutants are hypersensitive to SDS, but not calcofluor white (CFW) or Congo red, indicating that Fbp1 may regulate cell membrane integrity. Fbp1 physically interacts with Skp1 homologues in both Saccharomyces cerevisiae and C. neoformans via its F-box domain, suggesting it may function as part of an SCF (Skp1, Cullins, F-box proteins) E3 ligase. Overall, our study revealed that the F-box protein Fbp1 is essential for fungal sporulation and virulence in C. neoformans, which likely represents a conserved novel virulence control mechanism that involves the SCF E3 ubiquitin ligase-mediated proteolysis pathway.
The ubiquitin-proteasome system is one of the major protein turnover mechanisms that plays important roles in the regulation of a variety of cellular functions. It is composed of E1 (ubiquitin-activating enzyme), E2 (ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme), and E3 ubiquitin ligases that transfer ubiquitin to the substrates that are subjected to degradation in the 26S proteasome. The Skp1, Cullin, F-box protein (SCF) E3 ligases are the largest E3 gene family, in which the F-box protein is the key component to determine substrate specificity. Although the SCF E3 ligase and its F-box proteins have been extensively studied in the model yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, only limited studies have been reported on the role of F-box proteins in other fungi. Recently, a number of studies revealed that F-box proteins are required for fungal pathogenicity. In this communication, we review the current understanding of F-box proteins in pathogenic fungi.
Cryptococcus neoformans; E3 ligase; F-box; Fungi; Virulence
Cryptococcus neoformans is an AIDS-associated human fungal pathogen and the most common cause of fungal meningitis, with a mortality rate over 40% in AIDS patients. Significant advances have been achieved in understanding its disease mechanisms. Yet the underlying mechanism of a high frequency of cryptococcal meningitis remains unclear. The existence of high inositol concentrations in brain and our earlier discovery of a large inositol transporter (ITR) gene family in C. neoformans led us to investigate the potential role of inositol in Cryptococcus-host interactions. In this study, we focus on functional analyses of two major ITR genes to understand their role in virulence of C. neoformans. Our results show that ITR1A and ITR3C are the only two ITR genes among 10 candidates that can complement the growth defect of a Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain lacking inositol transporters. Both S. cerevisiae strains heterologously expressing ITR1A or ITR3C showed high inositol uptake activity, an indication that they are major inositol transporters. Significantly, itr1a itr3c double mutants showed significant virulence attenuation in murine infection models. Mutating both ITR1A and ITR3C in an ino1 mutant background activates the expression of several remaining ITR candidates and does not show more severe virulence attenuation, suggesting that both inositol uptake and biosynthetic pathways are important for inositol acquisition. Overall, our study provides evidence that host inositol and fungal inositol transporters are important for Cryptococcus pathogenicity.
Predicting future species invasions presents significant challenges to researchers and government agencies. Simply considering the vast number of potential species that could invade an area can be insurmountable. One method, recently suggested, which can analyse large datasets of invasive species simultaneously is that of a self organising map (SOM), a form of artificial neural network which can rank species by establishment likelihood. We used this method to analyse the worldwide distribution of 486 fungal pathogens and then validated the method by creating a virtual world of invasive species in which to test the SOM. This novel validation method allowed us to test SOM's ability to rank those species that can establish above those that can't. Overall, we found the SOM highly effective, having on average, a 96–98% success rate (depending on the virtual world parameters). We also found that regions with fewer species present (i.e. 1–10 species) were more difficult for the SOM to generate an accurately ranked list, with success rates varying from 100% correct down to 0% correct. However, we were able to combine the numbers of species present in a region with clustering patterns in the SOM, to further refine confidence in lists generated from these sparsely populated regions. We then used the results from the virtual world to determine confidences for lists generated from the fungal pathogen dataset. Specifically, for lists generated for Australia and its states and territories, the reliability scores were between 84–98%. We conclude that a SOM analysis is a reliable method for analysing a large dataset of potential invasive species and could be used by biosecurity agencies around the world resulting in a better overall assessment of invasion risk.
Despite the great morbidity and mortality that childhood bacterial meningitis (BM) is experiencing in Africa, diagnosis of BM in resource-limited contexts is still a challenge. Several algorithms and clinical predictors have been proposed to help physicians in decision-making but a lot of these markers used variables that are calculable only in well-equipped laboratories. Predictors or algorithm based on parameters that can be easily performed in basic laboratories can help significantly in BM diagnosis, even in resource-limited settings, rural hospitals or health centers.
This retrospective study examined 145 cerebral-spinal fluid (CSF) specimens from children from 2 months to 14 years. CSF specimens were divided into two groups, according to the presence or not of a clinical diagnosis of BM. For each specimen, CSF aspect, CSF white blood cells (WBC) count, CSF glucose and protein concentration were analyzed and statistical analysis were performed. CSF WBC count ≥10/µl is no more a valuable predictor of BM. CSF protein concentration ≥50 mg/dl has a better sensitivity for BM diagnosis and when used with CSF glucose concentration ≤40 mg/dl, can help to diagnose correctly almost all the BM cases. An algorithm including CSF protein concentration, glucose concentration and WBC count has been proposed to rule out BM and to correctly diagnose it.
In resource-limited health centers, the availability of a combination of easy-to-obtain parameters can significantly help physicians in BM diagnosis. The prompt identification of a BM case can be rapid treated or transferred to adequate structures and can modify the outcome in the patient.
The complement component C3a activates human mast cells via its cell surface G protein coupled receptor (GPCR) C3aR. For most GPCRs, agonist-induced receptor phosphorylation leads to receptor desensitization, internalization as well as activation of downstream signaling pathways such as ERK1/2 phosphorylation. Previous studies in transfected COS cells overexpressing G protein coupled receptor kinases (GRKs) demonstrated that GRK2, GRK3, GRK5 and GRK6 participate in agonist-induced C3aR phosphorylation. However, the roles of these GRKs on the regulation of C3aR signaling and mediator release in human mast cells remain unknown.
We utilized lentivirus short hairpin (sh)RNA to stably knockdown the expression of GRK2, GRK3, GRK5 and GRK6 in human mast cell lines, HMC-1 and LAD2, that endogenously express C3aR. Silencing GRK2 or GRK3 expression caused a more sustained Ca2+ mobilization, attenuated C3aR desensitization, and enhanced degranulation as well as ERK1/2 phosphorylation when compared to shRNA control cells. By contrast, GRK5 or GRK6 knockdown had no effect on C3aR desensitization, but caused a significant decrease in C3a-induced mast cell degranulation. Interestingly, GRK5 or GRK6 knockdown rendered mast cells more responsive to C3a for ERK1/2 phosphorylation.
This study demonstrates that GRK2 and GRK3 are involved in C3aR desensitization. Furthermore, it reveals the novel finding that GRK5 and GRK6 promote C3a-induced mast cell degranulation but inhibit ERK1/2 phosphorylation via C3aR desensitization-independent mechanisms. These findings thus reveal a new level of complexity for C3aR regulation by GRKs in human mast cells.
Cyclic AMP (cAMP) signaling plays an important role in regulating multiple cellular responses, such as growth, morphogenesis, and/or pathogenicity of eukaryotic organisms such as fungi. As a second messenger, cAMP is important in the activation of downstream effector molecules. The balance of intracellular cAMP levels depends on biosynthesis by adenylyl cyclases (ACs) and hydrolysis by cAMP phosphodiesterases (PDEases). The rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae contains a high-affinity (PdeH/Pde2) and a low-affinity (PdeL/Pde1) PDEases, and a previous study showed that PdeH has a major role in asexual differentiation and pathogenicity. Here, we show that PdeL is required for asexual development and conidial morphology, and it also plays a minor role in regulating cAMP signaling. This is in contrast to PdeH whose mutation resulted in major defects in conidial morphology, cell wall integrity, and surface hydrophobicity, as well as a significant reduction in pathogenicity. Consistent with both PdeH and PdeL functioning in cAMP signaling, disruption of PDEH only partially rescued the mutant phenotype of ΔmagB and Δpka1. Further studies suggest that PdeH might function through a feedback mechanism to regulate the expression of pathogenicity factor Mpg1 during surface hydrophobicity and pathogenic development. Moreover, microarray data revealed new insights into the underlying cAMP regulatory mechanisms that may help to identify potential pathogenicity factors for the development of new disease management strategies.
G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) represent the largest family of transmembrane receptors and are responsible for transducing extracellular signals into intracellular responses that involve complex intracellular-signaling networks. This review highlights recent research advances in fungal GPCRs, including classification, extracellular sensing, and G protein-signaling regulation. The involvement of GPCRs in pheromone and nutrient sensing has been studied extensively over the past decade. Following recent advances in fungal genome sequencing projects, a panoply of GPCR candidates has been revealed and some have been documented to play key roles sensing diverse extracellular signals, such as pheromones, sugars, amino acids, nitrogen sources, and even photons. Identification and deorphanization of additional putative GPCRs may require the development of new research tools. Here, we compare research on GPCRs in fungi with information derived from mammalian systems to provide a useful road map on how to better understand ligand–GPCR–G protein interactions in general. We also emphasize the utility of yeast as a discovery tool for systemic studies of GPCRs from other organisms.
G protein-coupled receptor; G protein; extracellular sensing; fungus
Signaling by extracellular adenosine 5′-triphosphase (eATP) is very common for cell-to-cell communication in many basic patho-physiological development processes. Rapid release of ATP into the extracellular environment from distressed or injured eukaryotic cells due to pathogens or other etiological factors can serve as a “danger signal”, activating host innate immunity. However, little is known about how or whether pathogenic bacteria respond to this “danger signal”.
Methods and Principal Findings
Here we report that extracellular dATP/ATP can stimulate bacterial adhesion and biofilm formation via increased cell lysis and extracellular DNA (eDNA) release. We demonstrate that extracellular dATP/ATP also stimulates bacterial adherence in vitro to human bronchial epithelial cells.
Conclusions and Significance
These data suggest that bacteria may sense extracellular dATP/ATP as a signal of “danger” and form biofilms to protect them from host innate immunity. This study reveals a very important and unrecognized phenomenon that both bacteria and host cells could respond to a common important signal molecule in a race to adapt to the presence of one another. We propose that extracellular dATP/ATP functions as an “inter-domain” warning signal that serves to induce protective measures in both Bacterial and Eukaryotic cells.
Available bacterial genomes provide opportunities for screening vaccines by reverse vaccinology. Efficient identification of surface antigens is required to reduce time and animal cost in this technology. We developed an approach to identify surface antigens rapidly in Streptococcus sanguinis, a common infective endocarditis causative species.
Methods and Findings
We applied bioinformatics for antigen prediction and pooled antigens for immunization. Forty-seven surface-exposed proteins including 28 lipoproteins and 19 cell wall-anchored proteins were chosen based on computer algorithms and comparative genomic analyses. Eight proteins among these candidates and 2 other proteins were pooled together to immunize rabbits. The antiserum reacted strongly with each protein and with S. sanguinis whole cells. Affinity chromatography was used to purify the antibodies to 9 of the antigen pool components. Competitive ELISA and FACS results indicated that these 9 proteins were exposed on S. sanguinis cell surfaces. The purified antibodies had demonstrable opsonic activity.
The results indicate that immunization with pooled proteins, in combination with affinity purification, and comprehensive immunological assays may facilitate cell surface antigen identification to combat infectious diseases.
In France, there was a reluctance to accept vaccination against the A/H1N1 pandemic influenza virus despite government recommendation and investment in the vaccine programme.
Methods and Findings
We examined the willingness of different populations to accept A/H1N1vaccination (i) in a French hospital among 3315 employees immunized either by in-house medical personnel or mobile teams of MDs and (ii) in a shelter housing 250 homeless persons. Google was used to assess the volume of enquiries concerning incidence of influenza. We analyzed the information on vaccination provided by Google, the website of the major French newspapers, and PubMed. Two trust Surveys were used to assess public opinion on the trustworthiness of people in different professions. Paramedics were significantly more reluctant to accept immunisation than qualified medical staff. Acceptance was significantly increased when recommended directly by MDs. Anecdotal cases of directly observed severe infections were followed by enhanced acceptance of paramedical staff. Scientific literature was significantly more in favour of vaccination than Google and French newspaper websites. In the case of the newspaper websites, information correlated with their recognised political reputations, although they would presumably claim independence from political bias. The Trust Surveys showed that politicians were highly distrusted in contrast with doctors and pharmacists who were considered much more trustworthy.
The low uptake of the vaccine could reflect failure to convey high quality medical information and advice relating to the benefits of being vaccinated. We believe that the media and internet contributed to this problem by raising concerns within the general population and that failure to involve GPs in the control programme may have been a mistake. GPs are highly regarded by the public and can provide face-to-face professional advice and information. The top-down strategy of vaccine programme management and information delivered by the Ministry of Health could have aggravated the problem, because the general population does not always trust politicians.
Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii are globally distributed human fungal pathogens and the leading causes of fungal meningitis. Recent studies reveal that myo-inositol is an important factor for fungal sexual reproduction. That C. neoformans can utilize myo-inositol as a sole carbon source and the existence of abundant inositol in the human central nervous system suggest that inositol is important for Cryptococcus development and virulence. In accord with this central importance of inositol, an expanded myo-inositol transporter (ITR) gene family has been identified in Cryptococcus. This gene family contains two phylogenetically distinct groups, with a total of 10 or more members in C. neoformans and at least six members in the sibling species C. gattii. These inositol transporter genes are differentially expressed under inositol-inducing conditions based on quantitative real-time PCR analyses. Expression of ITR genes in a Saccharomyces cerevisiae itr1 itr2 mutant lacking inositol transport can complement the slow-growth phenotype of this strain, confirming that ITR genes are bona fide inositol transporters. Gene mutagenesis studies reveal that the Itr1 and Itr1A transporters are important for myo-inositol stimulation of mating and that functional redundancies among the myo-inositol transporters likely exist. Deletion of the inositol 1-phosphate synthase gene INO1 in an itr1 or itr1a mutant background compromised virulence in a murine inhalation model, indicating the importance of inositol sensing and acquisition for fungal infectivity. Our study provides a platform for further understanding the roles of inositol in fungal physiology and virulence.
Cryptococcus neoformans is an AIDS-associated human fungal pathogen that causes over 1 million cases of meningitis annually and is the leading cause of fungal meningitis in immunosuppressed patients. The initial cryptococcal infection is caused predominantly via inhalation of sexual spores or desiccated yeast cells from the environment. How this fungus completes its sexual cycle and produces infectious spores in nature and why it frequently infects the central nervous system to cause fatal meningitis are critical questions that remain to be understood. In this study, we demonstrate that inositol acquisition is important not only for fungal sexual reproduction but also for fungal virulence. We identified an expanded inositol transporter gene family that contains over 10 members, important for both fungal sexual reproduction and virulence. Our work contributes to our understanding of how fungi respond to the environmental inositol availability and its impact on sexual reproduction and virulence.
Cryptococcus neoformans is a human fungal pathogen that undergoes a dimorphic transition from a unicellular yeast to multicellular hyphae during opposite sex (mating) and unisexual reproduction (same-sex mating). Opposite- and same-sex mating are induced by similar environmental conditions and involve many shared components, including the conserved pheromone sensing Cpk1 MAPK signal transduction cascade that governs the dimorphic switch in C. neoformans. However, the homeodomain cell identity proteins Sxi1α/Sxi2a encoded by the mating type locus that are essential for completion of sexual reproduction following cell–cell fusion during opposite-sex mating are dispensable for same-sex mating. Therefore, identification of downstream targets of the Cpk1 MAPK pathway holds the key to understanding molecular mechanisms governing the two distinct developmental fates. Thus far, homology-based approaches failed to identify downstream transcription factors which may therefore be species-specific. Here, we applied insertional mutagenesis via Agrobacterium-mediated transformation and transcription analysis using whole genome microarrays to identify factors involved in C. neoformans differentiation. Two transcription factors, Mat2 and Znf2, were identified as key regulators of hyphal growth during same- and opposite-sex mating. Mat2 is an HMG domain factor, and Znf2 is a zinc finger protein; neither is encoded by the mating type locus. Genetic, phenotypic, and transcriptional analyses of Mat2 and Znf2 provide evidence that Mat2 is a downstream transcription factor of the Cpk1 MAPK pathway whereas Znf2 functions as a more terminal hyphal morphogenesis determinant. Although the components of the MAPK pathway including Mat2 are not required for virulence in animal models, Znf2, as a hyphal morphology determinant, is a negative regulator of virulence. Further characterization of these elements and their target circuits will reveal genes controlling biological processes central to fungal development and virulence.
Although sexual reproduction typically involves partners of opposite mating type (sexuality), sex can occur with just one mating type and even with single individuals (parthenogenesis, homothallism). For example, Cryptococcus neoformans, a fungal pathogen that causes cryptococcal meningitis, can undergo opposite-sex mating and same-sex mating. The ability to undergo bisexual and unisexual mating provides this fungus a unique opportunity to maintain its ability to undergo sexual reproduction in largely unisexual natural populations (α). However, the molecular mechanisms underlying these two sexual reproduction processes are unclear. By random mutagenesis and gene expression profiling, we have identified two key transcription factors, Mat2 and Znf2, that operate cellular circuits orchestrating opposite- and same-sex mating in C. neoformans. The findings presented here provide a foundation to further elucidate the circuits evoking two different modes of sexual reproduction and to investigate the relationship between morphological differentiation and virulence in this ubiquitous pathogen. Recent studies suggest that unisexual mating might occur in several major human pathogenic fungi, and thus knowledge about the molecular mechanisms controlling the two sexual reproduction modes in C. neoformans may also provide insights on the evolution of bifurcate mating systems in other organisms.
Communication between cells and their environments is often mediated by G protein-coupled receptors and cognate G proteins. In fungi, one such signaling cascade is the mating pathway triggered by pheromone/pheromone receptor recognition. Unlike Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which expresses two Gα subunits, most filamentous ascomycetes and basidiomycetes have three Gα subunits. Previous studies have defined the Gα subunit acting upstream of the cAMP-protein kinase A pathway, but it has been unclear which Gα subunit is coupled to the pheromone receptor and response pathway. Here we report that in the pathogenic basidiomycetous yeast Cryptococcus neoformans, two Gα subunits (Gpa2, Gpa3) sense pheromone and govern mating. gpa2 gpa3 double mutants, but neither gpa2 nor gpa3 single mutants, are sterile in bilateral crosses. By contrast, deletion of GPA3 (but not GPA2) constitutively activates pheromone response and filamentation. Expression of GPA2 and GPA3 is differentially regulated: GPA3 expression is induced by nutrient-limitation, whereas GPA2 is induced during mating. Based on the phenotype of dominant active alleles, Gpa2 and Gpa3 signal in opposition: Gpa2 promotes mating, whereas Gpa3 inhibits. The incorporation of an additional Gα into the regulatory circuit enabled increased signaling complexity and facilitated cell fate decisions involving choice between yeast growth and filamentous asexual/sexual development.
The Gα protein Gpa1 governs the cAMP-PKA signaling pathway and plays a central role in virulence and differentiation in the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans, but the signals and receptors that trigger this pathway were unknown. We identified seven putative proteins that share identity with known G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). One protein, Gpr4, shares limited sequence identity with the Dictyostelium discoideum cAMP receptor cAR1 and the Aspergillus nidulans GPCR protein GprH and also shares structural similarity with the Saccharomyces cerevisiae receptor Gpr1. gpr4 mutants exhibited reduced capsule production and mating defects, similar to gpa1 mutants, and exogenous cAMP suppressed both gpr4 mutant phenotypes. Epistasis analysis provides further evidence that Gpr4 functions upstream of the Gα subunit Gpa1. Gpr4-Gpr4 homomeric interactions were observed in the yeast two-hybrid assay, and Gpr4 was shown to physically interact with Gpa1 in the split-ubiquitin system. A Gpr4::DsRED fusion protein was localized to the plasma membrane and methionine was found to trigger receptor internalization. The analysis of intracellular cAMP levels showed that gpr4 mutants still respond to glucose but not to certain amino acids, such as methionine. Amino acids might serve as ligands for Gpr4 and could contribute to engage the cAMP-PKA pathway. Activation of the cAMP-PKA pathway by glucose and amino acids represents a nutrient coincidence detection system shared in other pathogenic fungi.