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1.  Lipid signalling in pathogenic fungi 
Cellular microbiology  2010;13(2):177-185.
In recent years, the study of lipid signalling networks has significantly increased. Although best studied in mammalian cells, lipid signalling is now appreciated also in microbial cells, particularly in yeasts and moulds. For instance, microbial sphingolipids and their metabolizing enzymes play a key role in the regulation of fungal pathogenicity, especially in Cryptococcus neoformans, through the modulation of different microbial pathways and virulence factors. Another example is the quorum sensing molecule (QSM) farnesol. In fact, this QSM is involved not only in mycelial growth and biofilm formation of Candida albicans, but also in many stress related responses. In moulds, such as Aspergillus fumigatus, QSM and sphingolipids are important for maintaining cell wall integrity and virulence. Finally, fungal cells make oxylipins to increase their virulence attributes and to counteract the host immune defences. In this review, we discuss these aspects in details.
PMCID: PMC5142819  PMID: 21091925
2.  Diverse Functional Outcomes of Plasmodium falciparum Ligation of EPCR: Potential Implications for Malarial Pathogenesis 
Cellular microbiology  2015;17(12):1883-1899.
P. falciparum-infected erythrocytes (IRBC) expressing the domain cassettes (DC) 8 and 13 of the cytoadherent ligand PfEMP1 adhere to the endothelial protein C receptor (EPCR). By interfering with EPCR anti-coagulant and pro-endothelial barrier functions, IRBC adhesion could promote coagulation and vascular permeability that contribute to the pathogenesis of cerebral malaria. In this study, we examined adhesion of DC8- and DC13-expressing parasite lines to endothelial cells from different microvasculature, and the consequences of EPCR engagement on endothelial cell function. We found that IRBC from IT4var19 (DC8) and IT4var07 (DC13) parasite lines adhered to human brain, lung, and dermal endothelial cells under shear stress. However, the relative contribution of EPCR to parasite cytoadherence on the different types of endothelial cell varied. We also observed divergent functional outcomes for DC8 CIDRα1.1 and DC13 CIDRα1.4 domains. IT4var07 CIDRα1.4 inhibited generation of activated protein C (APC) on lung and dermal endothelial cells and blocked the APC-EPCR binding interaction on brain endothelial cells. IT4var19 CIDRα1.1 inhibited thrombin-induced endothelial barrier dysfunction in lung endothelial cells, while IT4var07 CIDRα1.4- inhibited the protective effect of APC on thrombin-induced permeability. Overall, these findings reveal a much greater complexity of how CIDRα1-expressing parasites may modulate malaria pathogenesis through EPCR adhesion.
PMCID: PMC4661070  PMID: 26119044
3.  Plasmodium falciparum adhesion domains linked to severe malaria differ in blockade of endothelial protein C receptor 
Cellular microbiology  2015;17(12):1868-1882.
Cytoadhesion of Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes to endothelial protein C receptor (EPCR) is associated with severe malaria. It has been postulated that parasite binding could exacerbate microvascular coagulation and endothelial dysfunction in cerebral malaria by impairing the protein C-EPCR interaction, but the extent of binding inhibition has not been fully determined. Here we expressed the cysteine rich interdomain region (CIDRα1) domain from a variety of DC8 and DC13 P. falciparum erythrocyte membrane 1 (PfEMP1) proteins and show they interact in a distinct manner with EPCR resulting in weak, moderate, and strong inhibition of the APC-EPCR interaction. Overall, there was a positive correlation between CIDRα1-EPCR binding activity and APC blockade activity. In addition, our analysis from a combination of mutagenesis and blocking antibodies finds that an Arg81 (R81) in EPCR plays a pivotal role in CIDRα1 binding, but domains with weak and strong APC blockade activity were distinguished by their sensitivity to inhibition by anti-EPCR mAb 1535, implying subtle differences in their binding footprints. These data reveal a previously unknown functional heterogeneity in the interaction between P. falciparum and EPCR and have major implications for understanding the distinct clinical pathologies of cerebral malaria and developing new treatment strategies.
PMCID: PMC4661071  PMID: 26118955
Plasmodium falciparum; malaria; antigenic variation; adhesion
4.  Transcriptomic and molecular genetic analysis of the cell wall salvage response of Aspergillus niger to the absence of galactofuranose synthesis 
Cellular Microbiology  2016;18(9):1268-1284.
The biosynthesis of cell surface‐located galactofuranose (Galf)‐containing glycostructures such as galactomannan, N‐glycans and O‐glycans in filamentous fungi is important to secure the integrity of the cell wall. UgmA encodes an UDP‐galactopyranose mutase, which is essential for the formation of Galf. Consequently, the ΔugmA mutant lacks Galf‐containing molecules. Our previous work in Aspergillus niger work suggested that loss of function of ugmA results in activation of the cell wall integrity (CWI) pathway which is characterized by increased expression of the agsA gene, encoding an α‐glucan synthase. In this study, the transcriptional response of the ΔugmA mutant was further linked to the CWI pathway by showing the induced and constitutive phosphorylation of the CWI‐MAP kinase in the ΔugmA mutant. To identify genes involved in cell wall remodelling in response to the absence of galactofuranose biosynthesis, a genome‐wide expression analysis was performed using RNAseq. Over 400 genes were higher expressed in the ΔugmA mutant compared to the wild‐type. These include genes that encode enzymes involved in chitin (gfaB, gnsA, chsA) and α‐glucan synthesis (agsA), and in β‐glucan remodelling (bgxA, gelF and dfgC), and also include several glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)‐anchored cell wall protein‐encoding genes. In silico analysis of the 1‐kb promoter regions of the up‐regulated genes in the ΔugmA mutant indicated overrepresentation of genes with RlmA, MsnA, PacC and SteA‐binding sites. The importance of these transcription factors for survival of the ΔugmA mutant was analysed by constructing the respective double mutants. The ΔugmA/ΔrlmA and ΔugmA/ΔmsnA double mutants showed strong synthetic growth defects, indicating the importance of these transcription factors to maintain cell wall integrity in the absence of Galf biosynthesis.
PMCID: PMC5129474  PMID: 27264789
5.  Plasmodium falciparum Plasmodium helical interspersed subtelomeric proteins contribute to cytoadherence and anchor P. falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 to the host cell cytoskeleton 
Cellular Microbiology  2016;18(10):1415-1428.
Adherence of Plasmodium falciparum‐infected erythrocytes to host endothelium is conferred through the parasite‐derived virulence factor P. falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1), the major contributor to malaria severity. PfEMP1 located at knob structures on the erythrocyte surface is anchored to the cytoskeleton, and the Plasmodium helical interspersed subtelomeric (PHIST) gene family plays a role in many host cell modifications including binding the intracellular domain of PfEMP1. Here, we show that conditional reduction of the PHIST protein PFE1605w strongly reduces adhesion of infected erythrocytes to the endothelial receptor CD36. Adhesion to other endothelial receptors was less affected or even unaltered by PFE1605w depletion, suggesting that PHIST proteins might be optimized for subsets of PfEMP1 variants. PFE1605w does not play a role in PfEMP1 transport, but it directly interacts with both the intracellular segment of PfEMP1 and with cytoskeletal components. This is the first report of a PHIST protein interacting with key molecules of the cytoadherence complex and the host cytoskeleton, and this functional role seems to play an essential role in the pathology of P. falciparum.
PMCID: PMC5103180  PMID: 26916885
6.  Moraxella catarrhalis induces CEACAM3‐Syk‐CARD9‐dependent activation of human granulocytes 
Cellular Microbiology  2016;18(11):1570-1582.
The human restricted pathogen Moraxella catarrhalis is an important causal agent for exacerbations in chronic obstructive lung disease in adults. In such patients, increased numbers of granulocytes are present in the airways, which correlate with bacteria‐induced exacerbations and severity of the disease.
Our study investigated whether the interaction of M. catarrhalis with the human granulocyte‐specific carcinoembryonic antigen‐related cell adhesion molecule (CEACAM)‐3 is linked to NF‐κB activation, resulting in chemokine production. Granulocytes from healthy donors and NB4 cells were infected with M. catarrhalis in the presence of different inhibitors, blocking antibodies and siRNA. The supernatants were analysed by enzyme‐linked immunosorbent assay for chemokines. NF‐κB activation was determined using a luciferase reporter gene assay and chromatin‐immunoprecipitation.
We found evidence that the specific engagement of CEACAM3 by M. catarrhalis ubiquitous surface protein A1 (UspA1) results in the activation of pro‐inflammatory events, such as degranulation of neutrophils, ROS production and chemokine secretion. The interaction of UspA1 with CEACAM3 induced the activation of the NF‐κB pathway via Syk and the CARD9 pathway and was dependent on the phosphorylation of the CEACAM3 ITAM‐like motif.
These findings suggest that the CEACAM3 signalling in neutrophils is able to specifically modulate airway inflammation caused by infection with M. catarrhalis.
PMCID: PMC5096018  PMID: 27038042
CEACAM3; granulocyte; Moraxella catarrhalis; COPD; immunoreceptor tyrosine‐based activation motif (ITAM); CARD9; Syk
7.  CD101: a novel long‐acting echinocandin 
Cellular Microbiology  2016;18(9):1308-1316.
CD101 is a novel echinocandin drug being developed to treat severe fungal infections including invasive candidiasis. We have performed a series of studies to evaluate the antifungal properties of CD101 against both echinocandin‐susceptible and ‐resistant Candida strains. Antifungal susceptibility testing performed on a collection of 95 Candida strains including 30 caspofungin‐resistant isolates containing fks mutations demonstrated comparable antifungal potency of CD101 relative to micafungin (MCF) across different Candida species. Comparable kinetic inhibition of glucan synthase activity was also observed for CD101 and MCF on both wild‐type (WT) and resistant fks mutant Candida strains. Similarly, both drugs yielded nearly identical values for a mutant prevention concentration. In a murine model of invasive candidiasis, CD101 displayed better or at least comparable efficacy relative to MCF in treating WT or fks mutant Candida albicans. An exceptional long‐lived pharmacokinetic profile was observed in mice following a single dose of CD101. Collectively, CD101 has great potential not only in treating invasive Candida infections but also in preventing emergence of resistance to currently approved echinocandin drugs.
PMCID: PMC5096055  PMID: 27354115
8.  Mechanisms of outer membrane vesicle entry into host cells 
Cellular Microbiology  2016;18(11):1508-1517.
Bacterial outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) are nano‐sized compartments consisting of a lipid bilayer that encapsulates periplasm‐derived, luminal content. OMVs, which pinch off of Gram‐negative bacteria, are now recognized as a generalized secretion pathway which provides a means to transfer cargo to other bacterial cells as well as eukaryotic cells. Compared with other secretion systems, OMVs can transfer a chemically extremely diverse range of cargo, including small molecules, nucleic acids, proteins, and lipids to proximal cells. Although it is well recognized that OMVs can enter and release cargo inside host cells during infection, the mechanisms of host association and uptake are not well understood. This review highlights existing studies focusing on OMV‐host cell interactions and entry mechanisms, and how these entry routes affect cargo processing within the host. It further compares the wide range of methods currently used to dissect uptake mechanisms, and discusses potential sources of discrepancy regarding the mechanism of OMV uptake across different studies.
PMCID: PMC5091637  PMID: 27529760
9.  Study of Plasmodium falciparum DHHC palmitoyl transferases identifies a role for PfDHHC9 in gametocytogenesis 
Cellular Microbiology  2016;18(11):1596-1610.
Palmitoylation is the post‐translational reversible addition of the acyl moiety, palmitate, to cysteine residues of proteins and is involved in regulating protein trafficking, localization, stability and function. The Aspartate‐Histidine‐Histidine‐Cysteine (DHHC) protein family, named for their highly conserved DHHC signature motif, is thought to be responsible for catalysing protein palmitoylation. Palmitoylation is widespread in all eukaryotes, including the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, where over 400 palmitoylated proteins are present in the asexual intraerythrocytic schizont stage parasites, including proteins involved in key aspects of parasite maturation and development. The P. falciparum genome includes 12 proteins containing the conserved DHHC motif. In this study, we adapted a palmitoyl‐transferase activity assay for use with P. falciparum proteins and demonstrated for the first time that P. falciparum DHHC proteins are responsible for the palmitoylation of P. falciparum substrates. This assay also reveals that multiple DHHCs are capable of palmitoylating the same substrate, indicating functional redundancy at least in vitro. To test whether functional redundancy also exists in vivo, we investigated the endogenous localization and essentiality of a subset of schizont‐expressed PfDHHC proteins. Individual PfDHHC proteins localized to distinct organelles, including parasite‐specific organelles such as the rhoptries and inner membrane complex. Knock‐out studies identified individual DHHCs that may be essential for blood‐stage growth and others that were functionally redundant in the blood stages but may have functions in other stages of parasite development. Supporting this hypothesis, disruption of PfDHHC9 had no effect on blood‐stage growth but reduced the formation of gametocytes, suggesting that this protein could be exploited as a transmission‐blocking target. The localization and stage‐specific expression of the DHHC proteins may be important for regulating their substrate specificity and thus may provide a path for inhibitor development.
PMCID: PMC5091645  PMID: 27060339
10.  FOXO responses to Porphyromonas gingivalis in epithelial cells 
Cellular microbiology  2015;17(11):1605-1617.
Porphyromonas gingivalis is a prominent periodontal, and emerging systemic, pathogen that redirects host cell signalling pathways and modulates innate immune responses. In this study, we show that P. gingivalis infection induces the dephosphorylation and activation of forkhead box-O (FOXO)1, 3 and 4 in gingival epithelial cells. In addition, immunofluorescence showed that FOXO1 accumulated in the nucleus of P. gingivalis-infected cells. Quantitative reverse transcription PCR demonstrated that transcription of genes involved in protection against oxidative stress (Cat, Sod2, Prdx3), inflammatory responses (IL1β) and anti-apoptosis (Bcl-6) was induced by P. gingivalis, while small-interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated knockdown of FOXO1 suppressed the transcriptional activation of these genes. P. gingivalis-induced secretion of interleukin (IL)-1β and inhibition of apoptosis were also impeded by FOXO1 knockdown. Neutralization of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by N-acetyl-l-cysteine blocked the activation of FOXO1 by P. gingivalis and concomitantly suppressed the activation of oxidative stress responses, anti-apoptosis programmes and IL-β production. Inhibition of c-Jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK) either pharmacologically or by siRNA, reduced FOXO1 activation and downstream FOXO1-dependent gene regulation in response to P. gingivalis. The results indicate that P. gingivalis-induced ROS activate FOXO transcription factors through JNK signalling, and that FOXO1 controls oxidative stress responses, inflammatory cytokine production and cell survival. These data position FOXO as an important signalling node in the epithelial cell–P. gingivalis interaction, with particular relevance to cell fate and dysbiotic host responses.
PMCID: PMC4624012  PMID: 25958948
11.  The development of malaria parasites in the mosquito midgut 
Cellular Microbiology  2016;18(7):905-918.
The mosquito midgut stages of malaria parasites are crucial for establishing an infection in the insect vector and to thus ensure further spread of the pathogen. Parasite development in the midgut starts with the activation of the intraerythrocytic gametocytes immediately after take‐up and ends with traversal of the midgut epithelium by the invasive ookinetes less than 24 h later. During this time period, the plasmodia undergo two processes of stage conversion, from gametocytes to gametes and from zygotes to ookinetes, both accompanied by dramatic morphological changes. Further, gamete formation requires parasite egress from the enveloping erythrocytes, rendering them vulnerable to the aggressive factors of the insect gut, like components of the human blood meal. The mosquito midgut stages of malaria parasites are unprecedented objects to study a variety of cell biological aspects, including signal perception, cell conversion, parasite/host co‐adaptation and immune evasion. This review highlights recent insights into the molecules involved in gametocyte activation and gamete formation as well as in zygote‐to‐ookinete conversion and ookinete midgut exit; it further discusses factors that can harm the extracellular midgut stages as well as the measures of the parasites to protect themselves from any damage.
PMCID: PMC5089571  PMID: 27111866
12.  Antigenic and phenotypic variations in fungi 
Cellular microbiology  2009;11(12):1716-1723.
Mechanisms to vary the phenotypic characteristics of fungi are diverse and can be important for their life cycle. This review summarizes phenotypic variability in fungi and divides this phenomenon into three topics: (i) morphological transitions, which are environmentally induced and involve the entire fungal population, (ii) reversible phenotypic switching between different colony morphologies, which is restricted to a small fraction of the population, and (iii) antigenic variation of surface antigens, which can be immuno-dominant epitopes happens in individual fungal cells.
PMCID: PMC5086420  PMID: 19769677
13.  Interaction between inflammatory mediators and miRNAs in Helicobacter pylori infection 
Cellular Microbiology  2016;18(10):1444-1458.
Helicobacter pylori cause chronic inflammation favouring gastric carcinogenesis, and its eradication may prevent malignant transformation. We evaluated whether H. pylori infection and its eradication modify the expression of inflammatory mediators in patients with chronic gastritis. Furthermore, we assessed whether microRNAs modulate inflammatory pathways induced by H. pylori and identified miRNA–gene interaction networks. mRNA and protein expression of TNFA, IL6, IL1B, IL12A, IL2 and TGFBRII and miRNAs miR‐103a‐3p, miR‐181c‐5p, miR‐370‐3p, miR‐375 and miR‐223‐3p were evaluated in tissue samples from 20 patients with chronic gastritis H. pylori negative (Hp−) and 31 H. pylori positive (Hp+), before and three months after bacterium eradication therapy, in comparison with a pool of Hp− normal gastric mucosa. Our results showed that H. pylori infection leads to up‐regulation of TNFA, IL6, IL12A and IL2 and down‐regulation of miRNAs. Bacterium eradication reduces the expression of TNFA and IL6 and up‐regulates TGFBRII and all investigated miRNAs, except miR‐223‐3p. Moreover, transcriptional profiles of inflammatory mediators and miRNAs after eradication are different from the non‐infected group. Deregulated miRNA–mRNA interaction networks were observed in the Hp+ group before and after eradication. Therefore, miRNAs modulated cytokine expression in the presence of H. pylori and after its eradication, suggesting that miRNAs participate in the pathological process triggered by H. pylori in the gastric mucosa.
PMCID: PMC5074252  PMID: 26945693
14.  Post‐transcriptional gene regulation in the biology and virulence of Candida albicans  
Cellular Microbiology  2016;18(6):800-806.
In the human fungal pathogen Candida albicans, remodelling of gene expression drives host adaptation and virulence. Recent studies revealed that in addition to transcription, post‐transcriptional mRNA control plays important roles in virulence‐related pathways. Hyphal morphogenesis, biofilm formation, stress responses, antifungal drug susceptibility and virulence in animal models require post‐transcriptional regulators. This includes RNA binding proteins that control mRNA localization, decay and translation, as well as the cytoplasmic mRNA decay pathway. Comprehensive understanding of how modulation of gene expression networks drives C. albicans virulence will necessitate integration of our knowledge on transcriptional and post‐transcriptional mRNA control.
PMCID: PMC5074327  PMID: 26999710
15.  Endoplasmic reticulum‐resident Rab8A GTPase is involved in phagocytosis in the protozoan parasite Entamoeba histolytica  
Cellular Microbiology  2016;18(10):1358-1373.
Phagocytosis is indispensable for the pathogenesis of the intestinal protozoan parasite Entamoeba histolytica. Here, we showed that in E. histolytica Rab8A, which is generally involved in trafficking from the trans‐Golgi network to the plasma membrane in other organisms but was previously identified in phagosomes of the amoeba in the proteomic analysis, primarily resides in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and participates in phagocytosis. We demonstrated that down‐regulation of EhRab8A by small antisense RNA‐mediated transcriptional gene silencing remarkably reduced adherence and phagocytosis of erythrocytes, bacteria and carboxylated latex beads. Surface biotinylation followed by SDS‐PAGE analysis revealed that the surface expression of several proteins presumably involved in target recognition was reduced in the EhRab8A gene‐silenced strain. Further, overexpression of wild‐type EhRab8A augmented phagocytosis, whereas expression of the dominant‐negative form of EhRab8A resulted in reduced phagocytosis. These results indicated that EhRab8A regulates transport of surface receptor(s) for the prey from the ER to the plasma membrane. To our knowledge, this is the first report that the ER‐resident Rab GTPase is involved in phagocytosis through the regulation of trafficking of a surface receptor, supporting a premise of direct involvement of the ER in phagocytosis.
PMCID: PMC5071775  PMID: 26807810
16.  The novel chlamydial adhesin CPn0473 mediates the lipid raft‐dependent uptake of Chlamydia pneumoniae  
Cellular Microbiology  2016;18(8):1094-1105.
Chlamydiae are Gram‐negative, obligate intracellular pathogens that pose a serious threat to public health worldwide. Chlamydial surface molecules are essential for host cell invasion. The first interaction with the host cell is thereby accomplished by the Outer membrane complex protein B (OmcB) binding to heparan sulfate moieties on the host cell surface, followed by the interaction of the chlamydial polymorphic membrane proteins (Pmps) with host cell receptors. Specifically, the interaction of the Pmp21 adhesin and invasin with its human interaction partner, the epidermal growth factor receptor, results in receptor activation, down‐stream signalling and finally internalization of the bacteria. Blocking both, the OmcB and Pmp21 adhesion pathways, did not completely abolish infection, suggesting the presence of additional factors relevant for host cell invasion. Here, we show that the novel surface protein CPn0473 of Chlamydia pneumoniae contributes to the binding and invasion of infectious chlamydial particles. CPn0473 is expressed late in the infection cycle and located on the infectious chlamydial cell surface. Soluble recombinant CPn0473 as well as rCPn0473‐coupled fluorescent latex beads adhere to human epithelial HEp‐2 cells. Interestingly, in classical infection blocking experiments pretreatment of HEp‐2 cells with rCPn0473 does not attenuate adhesion but promotes dose‐dependently internalization by C. pneumoniae suggesting an unusual mode of action for this adhesin. This CPn0473‐dependent promotion of infection by C. pneumoniae depends on two different domains within the protein and requires intact lipid rafts. Thus, inhibition of the interaction of CPn0473 with the host cell could provide a way to reduce the virulence of C. pneumoniae.
PMCID: PMC5067637  PMID: 26780295
Chlamydia pneumoniae; chlamydial adhesion; chlamydial internalization; surface localized protein; boost of chlamydial internalization; lipid raft domains
17.  Interaction of the Lyme disease spirochete with its tick vector 
Cellular microbiology  2016;18(7):919-927.
Borrelia burgdorferi , the causative agent of Lyme disease (along with closely related genospecies), is in the deeply branching spirochete phylum. The bacterium is maintained in nature in an enzootic cycle that involves transmission from a tick vector to a vertebrate host and acquisition from a vertebrate host to a tick vector. During its arthropod sojourn, B. burgdorferi faces a variety of stresses, including nutrient deprivation. Here, we review some of the spirochetal factors that promote persistence, maintenance and dissemination of B. burgdorferi in the tick, and then focus on the utilization of available carbohydrates as well as the exquisite regulatory systems invoked to adapt to the austere environment between blood meals and to signal species transitions as the bacteria traverse their enzootic cycle. The spirochetes shift their source of carbon and energy from glucose in the vertebrate to glycerol in the tick. Regulation of survival under limiting nutrients requires the classic stringent response in which RelBbu controls the levels of the alarmones guanosine tetraphosphate and guanosine pentaphosphate (collectively termed (p)ppGpp), while regulation at the tick–vertebrate interface as well as regulation of protective responses to the blood meal require the two-component system Hk1/Rrp1 to activate production of the second messenger cyclic-dimeric-GMP (c-di-GMP).
PMCID: PMC5067140  PMID: 27147446
18.  Phosphorylation of influenza A virus NS1 protein at threonine 49 suppresses its interferon antagonistic activity 
Cellular Microbiology  2016;18(6):784-791.
Phosphorylation and dephosphorylation acts as a fundamental molecular switch that alters protein function and thereby regulates many cellular processes. The non‐structural protein 1 (NS1) of influenza A virus is an important factor regulating virulence by counteracting cellular immune responses against viral infection. NS1 was shown to be phosphorylated at several sites; however, so far, no function has been conclusively assigned to these post‐translational events yet. Here, we show that the newly identified phospho‐site threonine 49 of NS1 is differentially phosphorylated in the viral replication cycle. Phosphorylation impairs binding of NS1 to double‐stranded RNA and TRIM25 as well as complex formation with RIG‐I, thereby switching off its interferon antagonistic activity. Because phosphorylation was shown to occur at later stages of infection, we hypothesize that at this stage other functions of the multifunctional NS1 beyond its interferon‐antagonistic activity are needed.
PMCID: PMC5066752  PMID: 26687707
19.  Trypanosoma cruzi: single cell live imaging inside infected tissues 
Cellular Microbiology  2016;18(6):779-783.
Although imaging the live Trypanosoma cruzi parasite is a routine technique in most laboratories, identification of the parasite in infected tissues and organs has been hindered by their intrinsic opaque nature. We describe a simple method for in vivo observation of live single‐cell Trypanosoma cruzi parasites inside mammalian host tissues. BALB/c or C57BL/6 mice infected with DsRed‐CL or GFP‐G trypomastigotes had their organs removed and sectioned with surgical blades. Ex vivo organ sections were observed under confocal microscopy. For the first time, this procedure enabled imaging of individual amastigotes, intermediate forms and motile trypomastigotes within infected tissues of mammalian hosts.
PMCID: PMC5064609  PMID: 26639617
Trypanosoma cruzi; live imaging; ex vivo; trypomastigote; amastigote; epimastigote‐like
20.  Lysosome biogenesis/scattering increases host cell susceptibility to invasion by Trypanosoma cruzi metacyclic forms and resistance to tissue culture trypomastigotes 
Cellular Microbiology  2015;18(5):748-760.
A fundamental question to be clarified concerning the host cell invasion by Trypanosoma cruzi is whether the insect‐borne and mammalian‐stage parasites use similar mechanisms for invasion. To address that question, we analysed the cell invasion capacity of metacyclic trypomastigotes (MT) and tissue culture trypomastigotes (TCT) under diverse conditions. Incubation of parasites for 1 h with HeLa cells in nutrient‐deprived medium, a condition that triggered lysosome biogenesis and scattering, increased MT invasion and reduced TCT entry into cells. Sucrose‐induced lysosome biogenesis increased HeLa cell susceptibility to MT and resistance to TCT. Treatment of cells with rapamycin, which inhibits mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), induced perinuclear lysosome accumulation and reduced MT invasion while augmenting TCT invasion. Metacylic trypomastigotes, but not TCT, induced mTOR dephosphorylation and the nuclear translocation of transcription factor EB (TFEB), a mTOR‐associated lysosome biogenesis regulator. Lysosome biogenesis/scattering was stimulated upon HeLa cell interaction with MT but not with TCT. Recently, internalized MT, but not TCT, were surrounded by colocalized lysosome marker LAMP2 and mTOR. The recombinant gp82 protein, the MT‐specific surface molecule that mediates invasion, induced mTOR dephosphorylation, nuclear TFEB translocation and lysosome biogenesis/scattering. Taken together, our data clearly indicate that MT invasion is mainly lysosome‐dependent, whereas TCT entry is predominantly lysosome‐independent.
PMCID: PMC5064668  PMID: 26572924
protozoa; microbial‐cell interaction
21.  The Plasmodium falciparum blood stages acquire factor H family proteins to evade destruction by human complement 
Cellular Microbiology  2015;18(4):573-590.
The acquisition of regulatory proteins is a means of blood‐borne pathogens to avoid destruction by the human complement. We recently showed that the gametes of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum bind factor H (FH) from the blood meal of the mosquito vector to assure successful sexual reproduction, which takes places in the mosquito midgut. While these findings provided a first glimpse of a complex mechanism used by Plasmodium to control the host immune attack, it is hitherto not known, how the pathogenic blood stages of the malaria parasite evade destruction by the human complement. We now show that the human complement system represents a severe threat for the replicating blood stages, particularly for the reinvading merozoites, with complement factor C3b accumulating on the surfaces of the intraerythrocytic schizonts as well as of free merozoites. C3b accumulation initiates terminal complement complex formation, in consequence resulting in blood stage lysis. To inactivate C3b, the parasites bind FH as well as related proteins FHL‐1 and CFHR‐1 to their surface, and FH binding is trypsin‐resistant. Schizonts acquire FH via two contact sites, which involve CCP modules 5 and 20. Blockage of FH‐mediated protection via anti‐FH antibodies results in significantly impaired blood stage replication, pointing to the plasmodial complement evasion machinery as a promising malaria vaccine target.
PMCID: PMC5063132  PMID: 26457721
22.  The Toxoplasma gondii rhoptry protein ROP18 is an Irga6‐specific kinase and regulated by the dense granule protein GRA7 
Cellular Microbiology  2015;18(2):244-259.
In mice, avirulent strains (e.g. types II and III) of the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii are restricted by the immunity‐related GTPase (IRG) resistance system. Loading of IRG proteins onto the parasitophorous vacuolar membrane (PVM) is required for vacuolar rupture resulting in parasite clearance. In virulent strain (e.g. type I) infections, polymorphic effector proteins ROP5 and ROP18 cooperate to phosphorylate and thereby inactivate mouse IRG proteins to preserve PVM integrity. In this study, we confirmed the dense granule protein GRA7 as an additional component of the ROP5/ROP18 kinase complex and identified GRA7 association with the PVM by direct binding to ROP5. The absence of GRA7 results in reduced phosphorylation of Irga6 correlated with increased vacuolar IRG protein amounts and attenuated virulence. Earlier work identified additional IRG proteins as targets of T. gondii ROP18 kinase. We show that the only specific target of ROP18 among IRG proteins is in fact Irga6. Similarly, we demonstrate that GRA7 is strictly an Irga6‐specific virulence effector. This identifies T. gondii GRA7 as a regulator for ROP18‐specific inactivation of Irga6. The structural diversity of the IRG proteins implies that certain family members constitute additional specific targets for other yet unknown T. gondii virulence effectors.
PMCID: PMC5061101  PMID: 26247512
23.  Antibacterial effect of mesenchymal stem cells against Escherichia coli is mediated by secretion of beta‐ defensin‐ 2 via toll‐ like receptor 4 signalling 
Cellular Microbiology  2015;18(3):424-436.
Recently, we demonstrated that intratracheal transplantation of human umbilical cord blood‐ derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) attenuates Escherichia (E) coli‐ induced acute lung injury primarily by down‐ modulating inflammation and enhancing bacterial clearance iQn mice. This study was performed to elucidate the mechanism underlying the antibacterial effects of MSCs. The growth of E. coli in vitro was significantly inhibited only by MSCs or their conditioned medium with bacterial preconditioning, but not by fibroblasts or their conditioned medium. Microarray analysis identified significant up‐ regulation of toll‐ like receptors (TLR)‐ 2 and TLR‐ 4, and β‐ defensin 2 (BD2) in MSCs compared with fibroblasts after E. coli exposure. The increased BD2 level and the in vitro antibacterial effects of MSCs were abolished by specific antagonist or by siRNA‐ mediated knockdown of TLR‐ 4, but not TLR‐ 2, and restored by BD2 supplementation. The in vivo down‐ modulation of the inflammatory response and enhanced bacterial clearance, increased BD2 secretion and the resultant protection against E. coli‐ induced pneumonia observed only with MSCs, but not fibroblasts, transplantation in mice, were abolished by knockdown of TLR‐ 4 with siRNA transfection. Our data indicate that BD2 secreted by the MSCs via the TLR‐ 4 signalling pathway is one of the critical paracrine factors mediating their microbicidal effects against E. coli, both in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, TLR‐ 4 from the transplanted MSCs plays a seminal role in attenuating in vivo E. coli‐ induced pneumonia and the ensuing acute lung injury through both its anti‐ inflammatory and antibacterial effects.
PMCID: PMC5057339  PMID: 26350435
mesenchymal stem cells; toll‐ like receptor 4; beta‐ defensin 2; Escherichia coli; acute lung injury
24.  Induced autoprocessing of the cytopathic Makes Caterpillars Floppy-like effector domain of the Vibrio vulnificus MARTX toxin 
Cellular microbiology  2015;17(10):1494-1509.
The multifunctional-autoprocessing repeats-in-toxin (MARTXVv) toxin that harbors a varied repertoire of effector domains is the primary virulence factor of Vibrio vulnificus. Although ubiquitously present among Biotype I toxin variants, the Makes Caterpillars Floppy-like effector domain (MCFVv) is previously unstudied. Using transient expression and protein delivery, MCFVv and MCFAh from the Aeromonas hydrophila MARTXAh toxin are shown for the first time to induce cell rounding. Alanine mutagenesis across the C-terminal subdomain of MCFVv identified an RCD tripeptide motif shown to comprise a cysteine protease catalytic site essential for autoprocessing of MCFVv. The autoprocessing could be recapitulated in vitro by addition of host cell lysate to recombinant MCFVv, indicating induced autoprocessing by cellular factors. The RCD motif is also essential for cytopathicity, suggesting autoprocessing is essential first to activate the toxin and then to process a cellular target protein resulting in cell rounding. Sequence homology places MCFVv within the C58 cysteine protease family that includes the type III secretion effectors YopT from Yersinia spp. and AvrPphB from Pseudomonas syringae. However, the catalytic site RCD motif is unique compared to other C58 peptidases and is here proposed to represent a new subgroup of autopeptidase found within a number of putative large bacterial toxins.
PMCID: PMC4583801  PMID: 25912102
Vibrio vulnificus; MARTX; MCF; site-directed mutagenesis; autoprocessing
25.  Host and parasite genetics shape a link between Trypanosoma cruzi infection dynamics and chronic cardiomyopathy 
Cellular Microbiology  2016;18(10):1429-1443.
Host and parasite diversity are suspected to be key factors in Chagas disease pathogenesis. Experimental investigation of underlying mechanisms is hampered by a lack of tools to detect scarce, pleiotropic infection foci. We developed sensitive imaging models to track Trypanosoma cruzi infection dynamics and quantify tissue‐specific parasite loads, with minimal sampling bias. We used this technology to investigate cardiomyopathy caused by highly divergent parasite strains in BALB/c, C3H/HeN and C57BL/6 mice. The gastrointestinal tract was unexpectedly found to be the primary site of chronic infection in all models. Immunosuppression induced expansion of parasite loads in the gut and was followed by widespread dissemination. These data indicate that differential immune control of T. cruzi occurs between tissues and shows that the large intestine and stomach provide permissive niches for active infection. The end‐point frequency of heart‐specific infections ranged from 0% in TcVI‐CLBR‐infected C57BL/6 to 88% in TcI‐JR‐infected C3H/HeN mice. Nevertheless, infection led to fibrotic cardiac pathology in all models. Heart disease severity was associated with the model‐dependent frequency of dissemination outside the gut and inferred cumulative heart‐specific parasite loads. We propose a model of cardiac pathogenesis driven by periodic trafficking of parasites into the heart, occurring at a frequency determined by host and parasite genetics.
PMCID: PMC5031194  PMID: 26918803

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