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1.  One Small Step for a Yeast - Microevolution within Macrophages Renders Candida glabrata Hypervirulent Due to a Single Point Mutation 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(10):e1004478.
Candida glabrata is one of the most common causes of candidemia, a life-threatening, systemic fungal infection, and is surpassed in frequency only by Candida albicans. Major factors contributing to the success of this opportunistic pathogen include its ability to readily acquire resistance to antifungals and to colonize and adapt to many different niches in the human body. Here we addressed the flexibility and adaptability of C. glabrata during interaction with macrophages with a serial passage approach. Continuous co-incubation of C. glabrata with a murine macrophage cell line for over six months resulted in a striking alteration in fungal morphology: The growth form changed from typical spherical yeasts to pseudohyphae-like structures – a phenotype which was stable over several generations without any selective pressure. Transmission electron microscopy and FACS analyses showed that the filamentous-like morphology was accompanied by changes in cell wall architecture. This altered growth form permitted faster escape from macrophages and increased damage of macrophages. In addition, the evolved strain (Evo) showed transiently increased virulence in a systemic mouse infection model, which correlated with increased organ-specific fungal burden and inflammatory response (TNFα and IL-6) in the brain. Similarly, the Evo mutant significantly increased TNFα production in the brain on day 2, which is mirrored in macrophages confronted with the Evo mutant, but not with the parental wild type. Whole genome sequencing of the Evo strain, genetic analyses, targeted gene disruption and a reverse microevolution experiment revealed a single nucleotide exchange in the chitin synthase-encoding CHS2 gene as the sole basis for this phenotypic alteration. A targeted CHS2 mutant with the same SNP showed similar phenotypes as the Evo strain under all experimental conditions tested. These results indicate that microevolutionary processes in host-simulative conditions can elicit adaptations of C. glabrata to distinct host niches and even lead to hypervirulent strains.
Author Summary
Evolution is not limited to making new species emerge and others perish over the millennia. It is also a central force in shorter-term interactions between microbes and hosts. A good example can be found in fungi, which are an underestimated cause of human diseases. Some fungi exist as commensals, and have adapted well to life on human epithelia. But as facultative pathogens, they face a different, hostile environment. We tested the ability of C. glabrata, a pathogen closely related to baker's yeast, to adapt to macrophages. We found that by adaptation, it changed its growth type completely. This allowed the fungus to escape the phagocytes, and increased its virulence in a mouse model. Sequencing the complete genome revealed surprisingly few mutations. Further analyses allowed us to detect the single mutation responsible for the phenotype, and to recreate it in the parental strain. Our work shows that fungi can adapt to immune cells, and that this adaptation can lead to an increased virulence. Since commensals are continuously exposed to host cells, we suggest that this ability could lead to unexpected phenotype changes, including an increase in virulence potential.
PMCID: PMC4214790  PMID: 25356907
2.  Fungal Chitin Dampens Inflammation through IL-10 Induction Mediated by NOD2 and TLR9 Activation 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(4):e1004050.
Chitin is an essential structural polysaccharide of fungal pathogens and parasites, but its role in human immune responses remains largely unknown. It is the second most abundant polysaccharide in nature after cellulose and its derivatives today are widely used for medical and industrial purposes. We analysed the immunological properties of purified chitin particles derived from the opportunistic human fungal pathogen Candida albicans, which led to the selective secretion of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10. We identified NOD2, TLR9 and the mannose receptor as essential fungal chitin-recognition receptors for the induction of this response. Chitin reduced LPS-induced inflammation in vivo and may therefore contribute to the resolution of the immune response once the pathogen has been defeated. Fungal chitin also induced eosinophilia in vivo, underpinning its ability to induce asthma. Polymorphisms in the identified chitin receptors, NOD2 and TLR9, predispose individuals to inflammatory conditions and dysregulated expression of chitinases and chitinase-like binding proteins, whose activity is essential to generate IL-10-inducing fungal chitin particles in vitro, have also been linked to inflammatory conditions and asthma. Chitin recognition is therefore critical for immune homeostasis and is likely to have a significant role in infectious and allergic disease.
Authors Summary
Chitin is the second most abundant polysaccharide in nature after cellulose and an essential component of the cell wall of all fungal pathogens. The discovery of human chitinases and chitinase-like binding proteins indicates that fungal chitin is recognised by cells of the human immune system, shaping the immune response towards the invading pathogen. We show that three immune cell receptors– the mannose receptor, NOD2 and TLR9 recognise chitin and act together to mediate an anti-inflammatory response via secretion of the cytokine IL-10. This mechanism may prevent inflammation-based damage during fungal infection and restore immune balance after an infection has been cleared. By increasing the chitin content in the cell wall pathogenic fungi may influence the immune system in their favour, by down-regulating protective inflammatory immune responses. Furthermore, gene mutations and dysregulated enzyme activity in the described chitin recognition pathway are implicated in inflammatory conditions such as Crohn's Disease and asthma, highlighting the importance of the discovered mechanism in human health.
PMCID: PMC3983064  PMID: 24722226
3.  Blood Platelets in the Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e90523.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is characterized by neurotoxic amyloid-ß plaque formation in brain parenchyma and cerebral blood vessels known as cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA). Besides CAA, AD is strongly related to vascular diseases such as stroke and atherosclerosis. Cerebrovascular dysfunction occurs in AD patients leading to alterations in blood flow that might play an important role in AD pathology with neuronal loss and memory deficits. Platelets are the major players in hemostasis and thrombosis, but are also involved in neuroinflammatory diseases like AD. For many years, platelets were accepted as peripheral model to study the pathophysiology of AD because platelets display the enzymatic activities to generate amyloid-ß (Aß) peptides. In addition, platelets are considered to be a biomarker for early diagnosis of AD. Effects of Aß peptides on platelets and the impact of platelets in the progression of AD remained, however, ill-defined. The present study explored the cellular mechanisms triggered by Aß in platelets. Treatment of platelets with Aß led to platelet activation and enhanced generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and membrane scrambling, suggesting enhanced platelet apoptosis. More important, platelets modulate soluble Aß into fibrillar structures that were absorbed by apoptotic but not vital platelets. This together with enhanced platelet adhesion under flow ex vivo and in vivo and platelet accumulation at amyloid deposits of cerebral vessels of AD transgenic mice suggested that platelets are major contributors of CAA inducing platelet thrombus formation at vascular amyloid plaques leading to vessel occlusion critical for cerebrovascular events like stroke.
PMCID: PMC3938776  PMID: 24587388
4.  Vemurafenib potently induces endoplasmic reticulum stress-mediated apoptosis in BRAFV600E melanoma cells 
Science signaling  2013;6(260):ra7.
The V600E mutation in the kinase BRAF is frequently detected in melanomas and results in constitutive activation of BRAF, which then promotes cell proliferation by the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway. Although the BRAFV600E kinase inhibitor vemurafenib has remarkable antitumor activity in patients with BRAFV600E-mutated melanoma, its effects are limited by the onset of drug resistance. We found that exposure of melanoma cell lines with the BRAFV600E mutation to vemurafenib decreased the abundance of anti-apoptotic proteins and induced intrinsic mitochondrial apoptosis. Vemurafenib-treated melanoma cells showed increased cytosolic concentration of calcium, a potential trigger for endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, which can lead to apoptosis. Consistent with an ER stress-induced response, vemurafenib decreased the abundance of the ER chaperone protein GRP78, increased the abundance of the spliced isoform of the transcription factor X-box protein 1 (XBP1) (which transcriptionally activates genes involved in ER stress responses), increased the phosphorylation of the translation initiation factor eIF2α (which would be expected to inhibit protein synthesis), and induced the expression of ER stress-related genes. Knockdown of the ER stress response protein ATF4 significantly reduced vemurafenib-induced apoptosis. Moreover, the ER stress inducer thapsigargin prevented invasive growth of tumors formed from vemurafenib-sensitive melanoma cells in vivo. In melanoma cells with low sensitivity or resistance to vemurafenib, combination treatment with thapsigargin augmented or induced apoptosis. Thus, thapsigargin or other inducers of ER stress may be useful in combination therapies to overcome vemurafenib resistance.
PMCID: PMC3698985  PMID: 23362240
5.  Gastric Antimicrobial Peptides Fail to Eradicate Helicobacter pylori Infection Due to Selective Induction and Resistance 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73867.
Although antimicrobial peptides protect mucus and mucosa from bacteria, Helicobacter pylori is able to colonize the gastric mucus. To clarify in which extend Helicobacter escapes the antimicrobial defense, we systematically assessed susceptibility and expression levels of different antimicrobial host factors in gastric mucosa with and without H. pylori infection.
Materials and Methods
We investigated the expression levels of HBD1 (gene name DEFB1), HBD2 (DEFB4A), HBD3 (DEFB103A), HBD4 (DEFB104A), LL37 (CAMP) and elafin (PI3) by real time PCR in gastric biopsy samples in a total of 20 controls versus 12 patients colonized with H. pylori. Immunostaining was performed for HBD2 and HBD3. We assessed antimicrobial susceptibility by flow cytometry, growth on blood agar, radial diffusion assay and electron microscopy.
H. pylori infection was associated with increased gastric levels of the inducible defensin HBD2 and of the antiprotease elafin, whereas the expression levels of the constitutive defensin HBD1, inducible HBD3 and LL37 remained unchanged. HBD4 was not expressed in significant levels in gastric mucosa. H. pylori strains were resistant to the defensins HBD1 as well as to elafin, and strain specific minimally susceptible to HBD2, whereas HBD3 and LL37 killed all H. pylori strains effectively. We demonstrated the binding of HBD2 and LL37 on the surface of H. pylori cells. Comparing the antibacterial activity of extracts from H. pylori negative and positive biopsies, we found only a minimal killing against H. pylori that was not increased by the induction of HBD2 in H. pylori positive samples.
These data support the hypothesis that gastric H. pylori evades the host defense shield to allow colonization.
PMCID: PMC3770654  PMID: 24040100
6.  A peptide derived from the highly conserved protein GAPDH is involved in tissue protection by different antifungal strategies and epithelial immunomodulation 
Glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) plays an important role in glycolysis but also in non-metabolic processes, including transcription activation and apoptosis. We report the isolation of an hGAPDH (2-32) fragment peptide from human placental tissue exhibiting antimicrobial activity. The peptide was internalized by cells of the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans and initiated a rapid apoptotic mechanism, leading to killing of the fungus. Killing was dose-dependent, with 10 µg/ml (3.1 µM) and 100 µg/ml hGAPDH (2-32) depolarizing 45% and 90% of the fungal cells in a population, respectively. Experimental C. albicans infection induced epithelial hGAPDH (2-32) expression. Addition of the peptide significantly reduced the tissue damage as compared to untreated experimental infection. Secreted aspartic proteinases (Saps) activity of C. albicans was inhibited by the fragment at higher concentrations with an ED50 of 160 mg/l (50 μM) for Sap1p and 200 mg/l (63 μM) for Sap2p while Sap3 was not inhibited at all. Interestingly, hGAPDH (2-32) induced significant epithelial IL-8 and GM-CSF secretion and stimulated TLR4 expression at low concentrations independently of the presence of C. albicans without any toxic mucosal effects.
In the future, the combination of different antifungal strategies, e.g. a conventional fungicidal with immunomodulatory effects and the inhibition of fungal virulence factors might be a promising treatment option.
PMCID: PMC3488162  PMID: 22832495
GAPDH; antimicrobial peptide; secreted aspartic proteases; reconstituted human oral epithelium (RHE)
7.  Atg13 and FIP200 act independently of Ulk1 and Ulk2 in autophagy induction 
Autophagy  2011;7(12):1424-1433.
Under normal growth conditions the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) negatively regulates the central autophagy regulator complex consisting of Unc-51-like kinases 1/2 (Ulk1/2), focal adhesion kinase family-interacting protein of 200 kDa (FIP200) and Atg13. Upon starvation, mTORC1-mediated repression of this complex is released, which then leads to Ulk1/2 activation. In this scenario, Atg13 has been proposed as an adaptor mediating the interaction between Ulk1/2 and FIP200 and enhancing Ulk1/2 kinase activity. Using Atg13-deficient cells, we demonstrate that Atg13 is indispensable for autophagy induction. We further show that Atg13 function strictly depends on FIP200 binding. In contrast, the simultaneous knockout of Ulk1 and Ulk2 did not have a similar effect on autophagy induction. Accordingly, the Ulk1-dependent phosphorylation sites we identified in Atg13 are expendable for this process. This suggests that Atg13 has an additional function independent of Ulk1/2 and that Atg13 and FIP200 act in concert during autophagy induction.
PMCID: PMC3327613
Atg13; autophagy; FIP200; Ulk1; Ulk2
8.  Glycosylation of Candida albicans Cell Wall Proteins Is Critical for Induction of Innate Immune Responses and Apoptosis of Epithelial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50518.
C. albicans is one of the most common fungal pathogen of humans, causing local and superficial mucosal infections in immunocompromised individuals. Given that the key structure mediating host-C. albicans interactions is the fungal cell wall, we aimed to identify features of the cell wall inducing epithelial responses and be associated with fungal pathogenesis. We demonstrate here the importance of cell wall protein glycosylation in epithelial immune activation with a predominant role for the highly branched N-glycosylation residues. Moreover, these glycan moieties induce growth arrest and apoptosis of epithelial cells. Using an in vitro model of oral candidosis we demonstrate, that apoptosis induction by C. albicans wild-type occurs in early stage of infection and strongly depends on intact cell wall protein glycosylation. These novel findings demonstrate that glycosylation of the C. albicans cell wall proteins appears essential for modulation of epithelial immunity and apoptosis induction, both of which may promote fungal pathogenesis in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3511564  PMID: 23226301
9.  Candida albicans-Epithelial Interactions: Dissecting the Roles of Active Penetration, Induced Endocytosis and Host Factors on the Infection Process 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36952.
Candida albicans frequently causes superficial infections by invading and damaging epithelial cells, but may also cause systemic infections by penetrating through epithelial barriers. C. albicans is a remarkable pathogen because it can invade epithelial cells via two distinct mechanisms: induced endocytosis, analogous to facultative intracellular enteropathogenic bacteria, and active penetration, similar to plant pathogenic fungi. Here we investigated the contributions of the two invasion routes of C. albicans to epithelial invasion. Using selective cellular inhibition approaches and differential fluorescence microscopy, we demonstrate that induced endocytosis contributes considerably to the early time points of invasion, while active penetration represents the dominant epithelial invasion route. Although induced endocytosis depends mainly on Als3-E–cadherin interactions, we observed E–cadherin independent induced endocytosis. Finally, we provide evidence of a protective role for serum factors in oral infection: human serum strongly inhibited C. albicans adhesion to, invasion and damage of oral epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC3351431  PMID: 22606314
10.  Persistence versus Escape: Aspergillus terreus and Aspergillus fumigatus Employ Different Strategies during Interactions with Macrophages 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31223.
Invasive bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (IBPA) is a life-threatening disease in immunocompromised patients. Although Aspergillus terreus is frequently found in the environment, A. fumigatus is by far the main cause of IBPA. However, once A. terreus establishes infection in the host, disease is as fatal as A. fumigatus infections. Thus, we hypothesized that the initial steps of disease establishment might be fundamentally different between these two species. Since alveolar macrophages represent one of the first phagocytes facing inhaled conidia, we compared the interaction of A. terreus and A. fumigatus conidia with alveolar macrophages. A. terreus conidia were phagocytosed more rapidly than A. fumigatus conidia, possibly due to higher exposure of β-1,3-glucan and galactomannan on the surface. In agreement, blocking of dectin-1 and mannose receptors significantly reduced phagocytosis of A. terreus, but had only a moderate effect on phagocytosis of A. fumigatus. Once phagocytosed, and in contrast to A. fumigatus, A. terreus did not inhibit acidification of phagolysosomes, but remained viable without signs of germination both in vitro and in immunocompetent mice. The inability of A. terreus to germinate and pierce macrophages resulted in significantly lower cytotoxicity compared to A. fumigatus. Blocking phagolysosome acidification by the v-ATPase inhibitor bafilomycin increased A. terreus germination rates and cytotoxicity. Recombinant expression of the A. nidulans wA naphthopyrone synthase, a homologue of A. fumigatus PksP, inhibited phagolysosome acidification and resulted in increased germination, macrophage damage and virulence in corticosteroid-treated mice. In summary, we show that A. terreus and A. fumigatus have evolved significantly different strategies to survive the attack of host immune cells. While A. fumigatus prevents phagocytosis and phagolysosome acidification and escapes from macrophages by germination, A. terreus is rapidly phagocytosed, but conidia show long-term persistence in macrophages even in immunocompetent hosts.
PMCID: PMC3272006  PMID: 22319619
11.  Models of oral and vaginal candidiasis based on in vitro reconstituted human epithelia 
Nature protocols  2006;1(6):2767-2773.
This protocol describes the setup, maintenance and characteristics of models of epithelial Candida infections based on well-established three-dimensional organotypic tissues of human oral and vaginal mucosa. Infection experiments are highly reproducible and can be used for the direct analysis of pathogen–epithelial cell interactions. This allows detailed investigations of Candida albicans wild type or mutant strain interaction with epithelial tissue or the evaluation of the host immune response using histological, biochemical and molecular methods. As such, the models can be utilized as a tool to investigate cellular interactions or protein and gene expression that are not complicated by non-epithelial factors. To study the impact of innate immunity or the antifungal activity of natural and non-natural compounds, the mucosal infection models can be supplemented with immune cells, antimicrobial agents or probiotic bacteria. The model requires at least 3 days to be established and can be maintained thereafter for 2–4 days.
PMCID: PMC3244617  PMID: 17406503
12.  β-Catenin Signaling Increases during Melanoma Progression and Promotes Tumor Cell Survival and Chemoresistance 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23429.
Beta-catenin plays an important role in embryogenesis and carcinogenesis by controlling either cadherin-mediated cell adhesion or transcriptional activation of target gene expression. In many types of cancers nuclear translocation of beta-catenin has been observed. Our data indicate that during melanoma progression an increased dependency on the transcriptional function of beta-catenin takes place. Blockade of beta-catenin in metastatic melanoma cell lines efficiently induces apoptosis, inhibits proliferation, migration and invasion in monolayer and 3-dimensional skin reconstructs and decreases chemoresistance. In addition, subcutaneous melanoma growth in SCID mice was almost completely inhibited by an inducible beta-catenin knockdown. In contrast, the survival of benign melanocytes and primary melanoma cell lines was less affected by beta-catenin depletion. However, enhanced expression of beta-catenin in primary melanoma cell lines increased invasive capacity in vitro and tumor growth in the SCID mouse model. These data suggest that beta-catenin is an essential survival factor for metastatic melanoma cells, whereas it is dispensable for the survival of benign melanocytes and primary, non-invasive melanoma cells. Furthermore, beta-catenin increases tumorigenicity of primary melanoma cell lines. The differential requirements for beta-catenin signaling in aggressive melanoma versus benign melanocytic cells make beta-catenin a possible new target in melanoma therapy.
PMCID: PMC3157382  PMID: 21858114
13.  Staphylococcal Peptidoglycan Co-Localizes with Nod2 and TLR2 and Activates Innate Immune Response via Both Receptors in Primary Murine Keratinocytes 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(10):e13153.
In mammalian host cells staphylococcal peptidoglycan (PGN) is recognized by Nod2. Whether PGN is also recognized by TLR2 is disputed. Here we carried out PGN co-localization and stimulation studies with TLR2 and Nod2 in wild type and mutant host cells. To exclude contamination with lipoproteins, polymeric staphylococcal PGN (PGNpol) was isolated from Staphylococcus aureus Δlgt (lacking lipidated prelipoproteins). PGNpol was biotinylated (PGN-Bio) for fluorescence monitoring with specific antibodies. Keratinocytes from murine oral epithelium (MK) readily internalized PGN-Bio in an endocytosis-like process. In wt MK, PGNpol induced intracellular accumulation of Nod2 and TLR2 and co-localized with Nod2 and TLR2, but not with TLR4. In TLR2-deficient MK Nod2 and in Nod2-deficient MK TLR2 was induced, indicating that PGNpol recognition by Nod2 is independent of TLR2 and vice versa. In both mutants IL-6 and IL-1B release was decreased by approximately 50% compared to wt MK, suggesting that the immune responses induced by Nod2 and TLR2 are comparable and that the two receptors act additively in MK. In TLR2-tranfected HEK293 cells PGNpol induced NFkB-promoter fused luciferase expression. To support the data, co-localization and signaling studies were carried out with SHL-PGN, a lipase protein covalently tethered to PGN-fragments of varying sizes at its C-terminus. SHL-PGN also co-localized with Nod2 or TLR2 and induced their accumulation, while SHL without PGN did not. The results show that staphylococcal PGN not only co-localizes with Nod2 but also with TLR2. PGN is able to stimulate the immune system via both receptors.
PMCID: PMC2951902  PMID: 20949035
14.  Proteins of nucleotide and base excision repair pathways interact in mitochondria to protect from loss of subcutaneous fat, a hallmark of aging 
Defects in the DNA repair mechanism nucleotide excision repair (NER) may lead to tumors in xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) or to premature aging with loss of subcutaneous fat in Cockayne syndrome (CS). Mutations of mitochondrial (mt)DNA play a role in aging, but a link between the NER-associated CS proteins and base excision repair (BER)-associated proteins in mitochondrial aging remains enigmatic. We show functional increase of CSA and CSB inside mt and complex formation with mtDNA, mt human 8-oxoguanine glycosylase (mtOGG)-1, and mt single-stranded DNA binding protein (mtSSBP)-1 upon oxidative stress. MtDNA mutations are highly increased in cells from CS patients and in subcutaneous fat of aged Csbm/m and Csa−/− mice. Thus, the NER-proteins CSA and CSB localize to mt and directly interact with BER-associated human mitochondrial 8-oxoguanine glycosylase-1 to protect from aging- and stress-induced mtDNA mutations and apoptosis-mediated loss of subcutaneous fat, a hallmark of aging found in animal models, human progeroid syndromes like CS and in normal human aging.
PMCID: PMC2822596  PMID: 20100872
15.  Quantitative expression of the Candida albicans secreted aspartyl proteinase gene family in human oral and vaginal candidiasis 
Microbiology (Reading, England)  2008;154(Pt 11):3266-3280.
A quantitative real-time RT-PCR system was established to identify which secreted aspartyl proteinase (SAP) genes are most highly expressed and potentially contribute to Candida albicans infection of human epithelium in vitro and in vivo. C. albicans SC5314 SAP1–10 gene expression was monitored in organotypic reconstituted human epithelium (RHE) models, monolayers of oral epithelial cells, and patients with oral (n=17) or vaginal (n=17) candidiasis. SAP gene expression was also analysed in Δsap1–3, Δsap4–6, Δefg1 and Δefg1/cph1 mutants to determine whether compensatory SAP gene regulation occurs in the absence of distinct proteinase gene subfamilies. In monolayers, RHE models and patient samples SAP9 was consistently the most highly expressed gene in wild-type cells. SAP5 was the only gene significantly upregulated as infection progressed in both RHE models and was also highly expressed in patient samples. Interestingly, the SAP4–6 subfamily was generally more highly expressed in oral monolayers than in RHE models. SAP1 and SAP2 expression was largely unchanged in all model systems, and SAP3, SAP7 and SAP8 were expressed at low levels throughout. In Δsap1–3, expression was compensated for by increased expression of SAP5, and in Δsap4–6, expression was compensated for by SAP2: both were observed only in the oral RHE. Both Δsap1–3 and Δsap4–6 mutants caused RHE tissue damage comparable to the wild-type. However, addition of pepstatin A reduced tissue damage, indicating a role for the Sap family as a whole in inducing epithelial damage. With the hypha-deficient mutants, RHE tissue damage was significantly reduced in both Δefg1/cph1 and Δefg1, but SAP5 expression was only dramatically reduced in Δefg1/cph1 despite the absence of hyphal growth in both mutants. This indicates that hypha formation is the predominant cause of tissue damage, and that SAP5 expression can be hypha-independent and is not solely controlled by the Efg1 pathway but also by the Cph1 pathway. This is believed to be the first study to fully quantify SAP gene expression levels during human mucosal infections; the results suggest that SAP5 and SAP9 are the most highly expressed proteinase genes in vivo. However, the overall contribution of the Sap1–3 and Sap4–6 subfamilies individually in inducing epithelial damage in the RHE models appears to be low.
PMCID: PMC2722715  PMID: 18957581
16.  Phenotypic screening, transcriptional profiling, and comparative genomic analysis of an invasive and non-invasive strain of Candida albicans 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:187.
Invasion of host tissue by the human fungal pathogen Candida albicans is an important step during the development of candidosis. However, not all C. albicans strains possess the same invasive and virulence properties. For example, the two clinical isolates SC5314 and ATCC10231 differ in their ability to invade host tissue and cause experimental infections. Strain SC5314 is invasive whereas strain ATCC10231 is non-invasive and strongly attenuated in virulence compared to SC5314. In this study we compare the in vitro phenotypic, transcriptional and genomic profiles of these two widely used laboratory strains in order to determine the principal biological and genetic properties responsible for their differential virulence.
In all media tested, the two strains showed the same metabolic flexibility, stress resistance, adhesion properties and hydrolytic enzyme secretion in vitro. However, differences were observed in response to cell-surface disturbing agents and alkaline pH. Furthermore, reduced hyphal formation in strain ATCC10231 under certain conditions correlated with reduced invasive properties in an in vitro invasion assay and a reduced ability to invade epithelial tissue. Despite these diverse phenotypic properties, no substantial genomic differences were detected by comparative genome hybridisation within the open reading frames. However, in vitro transcriptional profiling displayed major differences in the gene expression of these two strains, even under normal in vitro growth conditions.
Our data suggest that the reason for differential virulence of C. albicans strains is not due to the absence of specific genes, but rather due to differences in the expression, function or activity of common genes.
PMCID: PMC2579918  PMID: 18950481
17.  Human epithelial cells establish direct antifungal defense through TLR4-mediated signaling 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2007;117(12):3664-3672.
Mammalian TLRs are central mediators of the innate immune system that instruct cells of the innate and adaptive response to clear microbial infections. Here, we demonstrate that human epithelial TLR4 directly protected the oral mucosa from fungal infection via a process mediated by polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNs). In an in vitro epithelial model of oral candidiasis, the fungal pathogen Candida albicans induced a chemoattractive and proinflammatory cytokine response but failed to directly modulate the expression of genes encoding TLRs. However, the addition of PMNs to the C. albicans–infected model strongly upregulated cytoplasmic and cell-surface epithelial TLR4 expression, which correlated directly with protection against fungal invasion and cell injury. C. albicans invasion and cell injury was restored by the addition of TLR4-specific neutralizing antibodies and knockdown of TLR4 using RNA interference, even in the presence of PMNs, demonstrating the direct role of epithelial TLR4 in the protective process. Furthermore, treatment with neutralizing antibodies specific for TNF-α resulted in strongly reduced TLR4 expression accompanied by augmented epithelial cell damage and fungal invasion. To our knowledge, this is the first description of such a PMN-dependent, TLR4-mediated protective mechanism at epithelial surfaces, which may provide significant insights into how microbial infections are managed and controlled in the oral mucosa.
PMCID: PMC2066194  PMID: 17992260
18.  The Early Transcriptional Response of Human Granulocytes to Infection with Candida albicans Is Not Essential for Killing but Reflects Cellular Communications▿  
Infection and Immunity  2006;75(3):1493-1501.
Candida albicans is a polymorphic opportunistic fungus that can cause life-threatening systemic infections following hematogenous dissemination in patients susceptible to nosocomial infection. Neutrophils form part of the innate immune response, which is the first line of defense against microbes and is particularly important in C. albicans infections. To compare the transcriptional response of leukocytes exposed to C. albicans, we investigated the expression of key cytokine genes in polymorphonuclear and mononuclear leukocytes after incubation with C. albicans for 1 h. Isolated mononuclear cells expressed high levels of genes encoding proinflammatory signaling molecules, whereas neutrophils exhibited much lower levels, similar to those observed in whole blood. The global transcriptional profile of neutrophils was examined by using an immunology-biased human microarray to determine whether different morphological forms or the viability of C. albicans altered the transcriptome. Hyphal cells appeared to have the broadest effect, although the most strongly induced genes were regulated independently of morphology or viability. These genes were involved in proinflammatory cell-cell signaling, cell signal transduction, and cell growth. Generally, genes encoding known components of neutrophil granules showed no upregulation at this time point; however, lactoferrin, a well-known candidacidal peptide, was secreted by neutrophils. Addition to inhibitors of RNA or protein de novo synthesis did not influence the killing activity within 30 min. These results support the general notion that neutrophils do not require gene transcription to mount an immediate and direct attack against microbes. However, neutrophils exposed to C. albicans express genes involved in communication with other immune cells.
PMCID: PMC1828553  PMID: 17145939
19.  Bartonella quintana Variably Expressed Outer Membrane Proteins Mediate Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Secretion but Not Host Cell Adherence  
Infection and Immunity  2006;74(9):5003-5013.
Bartonella quintana causes trench fever, endocarditis, and the vasculoproliferative disorders bacillary angiomatosis and peliosis hepatis in humans. Little is known about the interaction of this pathogen with host cells. We attempted to elucidate the interaction of B. quintana with human macrophages (THP-1) and epithelial cells (HeLa 229). Remarkably, only B. quintana strain JK-31 induced secretion of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) from THP-1 and HeLa 229 cells upon infection similar to the secretion induced by B. henselae Marseille, whereas other strains (B. quintana 2-D70, B. quintana Toulouse, and B. quintana Munich) did not induce such secretion. Immunofluorescence testing and electron microscopy revealed that the B. quintana strains unable to induce VEGF secretion did not express the variable outer membrane proteins (Vomps) on their surfaces. Surprisingly, the increase in VEGF secretion mediated by B. quintana JK-31 was not paralleled by elevated host cell adherence rates compared with the rates for Vomp-negative B. quintana strains. Our results suggest that the Vomps play a leading role in the angiogenic reprogramming of host cells by B. quintana but not in the adherence to host cells.
PMCID: PMC1594870  PMID: 16926391
20.  Virulence of the Fungal Pathogen Candida albicans Requires the Five Isoforms of Protein Mannosyltransferases  
Infection and Immunity  2005;73(8):4571-4580.
The PMT gene family in Candida albicans encodes five isoforms of protein mannosyltransferases (Pmt proteins Pmt1p, Pmt2p, Pmt4p, Pmt5p, and Pmt6p) that initiate O mannosylation of secretory proteins. We compared virulence characteristics of pmt mutants in two complex, three-dimensional models of localized candidiasis, using reconstituted human epithelium (RHE) and engineered human oral mucosa (EHOM); in addition, mutants were tested in a mouse model of hematogenously disseminated candidiasis (HDC). All pmt mutants showed attenuated virulence in the HDC model and at least one model of localized candidiasis. The pmt5 mutant, which lacks in vitro growth phenotypes, was less virulent in the EHOM and HDC assays but had no consistent phenotype in the RHE assay. In contrast, the pmt4 and pmt6 mutants were less virulent in the RHE and HDC assays but not in the EHOM assay. The results stress the contribution of all Pmt isoforms to the virulence of C. albicans and suggest that the importance of individual Pmt isoforms may differ in specific host niches. We propose that Pmt proteins may be suitable targets for future novel classes of antifungal agents.
PMCID: PMC1201229  PMID: 16040968
21.  Bartonella Adhesin A Mediates a Proangiogenic Host Cell Response 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2004;200(10):1267-1278.
Bartonella henselae causes vasculoproliferative disorders in humans. We identified a nonfimbrial adhesin of B. henselae designated as Bartonella adhesin A (BadA). BadA is a 340-kD outer membrane protein encoded by the 9.3-kb badA gene. It has a modular structure and contains domains homologous to the Yersinia enterocolitica nonfimbrial adhesin (Yersinia adhesin A). Expression of BadA was restored in a BadA-deficient transposon mutant by complementation in trans. BadA mediates the binding of B. henselae to extracellular matrix proteins and to endothelial cells, possibly via β1 integrins, but prevents phagocytosis. Expression of BadA is crucial for activation of hypoxia-inducible factor 1 in host cells by B. henselae and secretion of proangiogenic cytokines (e.g., vascular endothelial growth factor). BadA is immunodominant in B. henselae–infected patients and rodents, indicating that it is expressed during Bartonella infections. Our results suggest that BadA, the largest characterized bacterial protein thus far, is a major pathogenicity factor of B. henselae with a potential role in the induction of vasculoproliferative disorders.
PMCID: PMC2211922  PMID: 15534369
pilus; endothelial cells; HIF-1; VEGF; angiogenesis
22.  Candida albicans-Secreted Aspartic Proteinases Modify the Epithelial Cytokine Response in an In Vitro Model of Vaginal Candidiasis  
Infection and Immunity  2005;73(5):2758-2765.
Secreted aspartyl proteinases (Saps) are important virulence factors of Candida albicans during mucosal and disseminated infections and may also contribute to the induction of an inflammatory host immune response. We used a model of vaginal candidiasis based on reconstituted human vaginal epithelium (RHVE) to study the epithelial cytokine response induced by C. albicans. In order to study the impact of the overall proteolytic activity and of distinct Sap isoenzymes, we studied the effect of the proteinase inhibitor pepstatin A on the immune response and compared the cytokine expression pattern induced by the wild-type strain SC5314 with the pattern induced by Sap-deficient mutants. Infection of RHVE with the C. albicans wild-type strain induced strong interleukin 1α (IL-1α), IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, gamma interferon, and tumor necrosis factor alpha responses in comparison with cytokine expression in noninfected tissue. Addition of the aspartyl proteinase inhibitor pepstatin A strongly reduced the cytokine response of RHVE. Furthermore, SAP-null mutants lacking either SAP1 or SAP2 caused reduced tissue damage and had a significantly reduced potential to stimulate cytokine expression. In contrast, the vaginopathic and cytokine-inducing potential of mutants lacking SAP4 to SAP6 was similar to that of the wild-type strain. These data show that the potential of specific Saps to cause tissue damage correlates with an epithelium-induced proinflammatory cytokine response, which may be crucial in controlling and managing C. albicans infections at the vaginal mucosa in vivo.
PMCID: PMC1087327  PMID: 15845479
23.  Yersinia enterocolitica Induces Apoptosis and Inhibits Surface Molecule Expression and Cytokine Production in Murine Dendritic Cells  
Infection and Immunity  2004;72(12):7045-7054.
Yersinia enterocolitica evades innate immunity by expression of a variety of pathogenicity factors. Therefore, adaptive immunity including CD4+ T cells plays an important role in defense against Y. enterocolitica. We investigated whether Y. enterocolitica might target dendritic cells (DC) involved in adaptive T-cell responses. For this purpose, murine DC were infected with Y. enterocolitica wild-type and mutant strains prior to incubation with ovalbumin (OVA) as antigen and 5-(6)-carboxyfluorescein diacetate N-succinimidyl ester-labeled OVA-specific T cells from DO11.10 mice. While T-cell proliferation was partially affected by infection of DC with plasmid-cured and YopP-deficient Yersinia mutant strains, no T-cell proliferation occurred after infection of DC with wild-type Y. enterocolitica. Infection of DC with Y. enterocolitica wild type resulted in decreased up-regulation of major histocompatibility complex class II, CD54 (intercellular adhesion molecule 1), CD 80, and CD86 expression. Experiments with plasmid-cured Y. enterocolitica or a YopP-deficient mutant strain revealed that YopP accounts for inhibition of surface molecule expression. Wild-type Y. enterocolitica suppressed the release of KC, tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-10 (IL-10), and IL-12 by DC, while infection of DC with plasmid-cured Y. enterocolitica or with the YopP-deficient mutant resulted in the production of these cytokines. Moreover, infection with wild-type Y. enterocolitica induced apoptosis in DC mediated by YopP. Apoptosis occurred despite translocation of NF-κB to the nucleus, as demonstrated by electromobility shift assays. Together, these data demonstrate that Y. enterocolitica targets functions of murine DC that are required for T-cell activation. This might contribute to evasion of adaptive immune responses by Y. enterocolitica.
PMCID: PMC529138  PMID: 15557628
24.  Ciclopirox Olamine Treatment Affects the Expression Pattern of Candida albicans Genes Encoding Virulence Factors, Iron Metabolism Proteins, and Drug Resistance Factors 
The hydroxypyridone ciclopirox olamine belongs to the antimycotic drugs used for the treatment of superficial mycoses. In contrast to the azoles and other antimycotic drugs, its specific mode of action is only poorly understood. To investigate the mode of action of ciclopirox olamine on fungal viability, pathogenicity, and drug resistance, we examined the expression patterns of 47 Candida albicans genes in cells grown in the presence of a subinhibitory concentration (0.6 μg/ml) of ciclopirox olamine by reverse transcription-PCR. In addition, we used suppression-subtractive hybridization to further identify genes that are up-regulated in the presence of ciclopirox olamine. The expression of essential genes such as ACT1 was not significantly modified in cells exposed to ciclopirox olamine. Most putative and known virulence genes such as genes encoding secreted proteinases or lipases had no or only moderately reduced expression levels. In contrast, exposure of cells to ciclopirox olamine led to a distinct up- or down-regulation of genes encoding iron permeases or transporters (FTR1, FTR2, FTH1), a copper permease (CCC2), an iron reductase (CFL1), and a siderophore transporter (SIT1); these effects resembled those found under iron-limited conditions. Addition of FeCl3 to ciclopirox olamine-treated cells reversed the effect of the drug. Addition of the iron chelator bipyridine to the growth medium induced similar patterns of expression of distinct iron-regulated genes (FTR1, FTR2). While serum-induced yeast-to-hyphal phase transition of C. albicans was not affected in ciclopirox olamine-treated cells in the presence of subinhibitory conditions, a dramatic increase in sensitivity to oxidative stress was noted, which may indicate the reduced activities of iron-containing gene products responsible for detoxification. Although the Candida drug resistance genes CDR1 and CDR2 were up-regulated, no change in resistance or increased tolerance could be observed even after an incubation period of 6 months. This was in contrast to control experiments with fluconazole, in which the MICs for cells incubated with this drug had noticeably increased after 2 months. These data support the view that the antifungal activity of ciclopirox olamine may at least be partially caused by iron limitation. Furthermore, neither the expression of certain multiple-drug resistance genes nor other resistance mechanisms caused C. albicans resistance to this drug even after long-term exposure.
PMCID: PMC155814  PMID: 12760852
25.  The Secreted Aspartyl Proteinases Sap1 and Sap2 Cause Tissue Damage in an In Vitro Model of Vaginal Candidiasis Based on Reconstituted Human Vaginal Epithelium  
Infection and Immunity  2003;71(6):3227-3234.
Secreted aspartyl proteinases (Saps) contribute to the ability of Candida albicans to cause mucosal and disseminated infections. A model of vaginal candidiasis based on reconstituted human vaginal epithelium (RHVE) was used to study the expression and role of these C. albicans proteinases during infection and tissue damage of vaginal epithelium. Colonization of the RHVE by C. albicans SC5314 did not cause any visible epithelial damage 6 h after inoculation, although expression of SAP2, SAP9, and SAP10 was detected by reverse transcriptase PCR. However, significant epithelial damage was observed after 12 h, concomitant with the additional expression of SAP1, SAP4, and SAP5. Additional transcripts of SAP6 and SAP7 were detected at a later stage of the artificial infection (24 h). Similar SAP expression profiles were observed in three samples isolated from human patients with vaginal candidiasis. In experimental infection, secretion of antigens Sap1 to Sap6 by C. albicans was confirmed at the ultrastructural level by using polyclonal antisera raised against Sap1 to Sap6. Addition of the aspartyl proteinase inhibitors pepstatin A and the human immunodeficiency virus proteinase inhibitors ritonavir and amprenavir strongly reduced the tissue damage of the vaginal epithelia by C. albicans cells. Furthermore, SAP null mutants lacking either SAP1 or SAP2 had a drastically reduced potential to cause tissue damage even though SAP3, SAP4, and SAP7 were up-regulated in these mutants. In contrast the vaginopathic potential of mutants lacking SAP3 or SAP4 to SAP6 was not reduced compared to wild-type cells. These data provide further evidence for a crucial role of Sap1 and Sap2 in C. albicans vaginal infections.
PMCID: PMC155757  PMID: 12761103

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