Postdoctoral Fellow , Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center
Mucosal fungal recognition and inflammatory signaling
Oral epithelial cells discriminate between pathogenic and non-pathogenic stimuli, and only induce an inflammatory response when they are exposed to high levels of a potentially harmful microorganism. The pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) in epithelial cells that mediate this differential response are poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that the ephrin type-A receptor 2 (EphA2) is an oral epithelial cell PRR that binds to exposed β-glucans on the surface of the fungal pathogen Candida albicans. Binding of C. albicans to EphA2 on oral epithelial cells activates signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (Stat3) and mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling in an inoculum-dependent manner, and is required for induction of a pro-inflammatory and antifungal response. Inhibition of EphA2 in mice decreases IL-17 signaling during oropharyngeal candidiasis, resulting in increased oral fungal burden and fungal dissemination. Our study reveals that EphA2 functions as PRR for β-glucans that senses epithelial cell fungal burden and is required for the maximal mucosal inflammatory response to C. albicans.
I completed an apprenticeship as a biological technical assistant in 2007 at the Rheinische Akademie Koeln, Cologne, Germany. Next, I studied Biology (B.Sc.; 2010, and M.Sc.), majoring in Microbiology and Molecular Biomedicine, at the Heinrich-Heine-University (HHU) in Dusseldorf, Germany, where I graduated in 2012. I received my doctoral training in the laboratory of Professor Joachim F. Ernst in the Department of Molecular Mycology at HHU, and graduated in 2015. Following the completion of my PhD, and a short-term fellowship at the Department of Molecular Mycology, Dusseldorf, Germany, I began a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Scott Filler, M.D. in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA Biomed) in August 2015. I chose this laboratory because I wanted to complement my skills in protein biochemistry and Candida albicans molecular biology with expertise in fungal-host interactions and animal models of infection.
Abstract: Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are key elements of innate immunity, which can directly kill multiple bacterial, viral, and fungal pathogens. The medically important fungus Candida albicans colonizes different host niches as part of the normal human microbiota. Proliferation of C. albicans is regulated through a complex balance of host immune defense mechanisms and fungal responses. Expression of AMPs against pathogenic fungi is differentially regulated and initiated by interactions of a variety of fungal pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) with pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) on human cells. Inflammatory signaling and other environmental stimuli are also essential to control fungal proliferation and to prevent parasitism. To persist in the host, C. albicans has developed a three-phase AMP evasion strategy, including secretion of peptide effectors, AMP efflux pumps, and regulation of signaling pathways. These mechanisms prevent C. albicans from the antifungal activity of the major AMP classes, including cathelicidins, histatins, and defensins leading to a basal resistance. This minireview summarizes human AMP attack and C. albicans resistance mechanisms and current developments in the use of AMPs as antifungal agents.
Pub.: 22 Jun '14, Pinned: 29 Jun '17
Abstract: Oropharyngeal candidiasis (OPC), caused predominantly by Candida albicans, is a prevalent infection in patients with advanced AIDS, defects in Th17 immunity, and head and neck cancer. A characteristic feature of OPC is fungal invasion of the oral epithelial cells. One mechanism by which C. albicans hyphae can invade oral epithelial cells is by expressing the Als3 and Ssa1 invasins that interact with the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) on epithelial cells and stimulate endocytosis of the organism. However, the signaling pathways that function downstream of EGFR and mediate C. albicans endocytosis are poorly defined. Here, we report that C. albicans infection activates the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), leading to activation of Src family kinases (SFKs), which in turn phosphorylate EGFR and induce endocytosis of the fungus. Furthermore, treatment of oral epithelial cells with interferon gamma inhibits fungal endocytosis by inducing the synthesis of kynurenines, which cause prolonged activation of AhR and SFKs, thereby interfering with C. albicans-induced EGFR signaling. Treatment of both immunosuppressed and immunocompetent mice with an AhR inhibitor decreases phosphorylation of SFKs and EGFR in the oral mucosa, reduces fungal invasion, and lessens the severity of OPC. Thus, our data indicate that AhR plays a central role in governing the pathogenic interactions of C. albicans with oral epithelial cells during OPC and suggest that this receptor is a potential therapeutic target.IMPORTANCE OPC is caused predominantly by the fungus C. albicans, which can invade the oral epithelium by several mechanisms. One of these mechanisms is induced endocytosis, which is stimulated when fungal invasins bind to epithelial cell receptors such as EGFR. Receptor binding causes rearrangement of epithelial cell microfilaments, leading to the formation of pseudopods that engulf the fungus and pull it into the epithelial cell. We discovered AhR acts via SFKs to phosphorylate EGFR and induce the endocytosis of C. albicans Our finding that a small molecule inhibitor of AhR ameliorates OPC in mice suggests that a strategy of targeting host cell signaling pathways that govern epithelial cell endocytosis of C. albicans holds promise as a new approach to preventing or treating OPC.
Pub.: 23 Mar '17, Pinned: 29 Jun '17
Abstract: Msb2 is a sensor protein in the plasma membrane of fungi. In the human fungal pathogen C. albicans Msb2 signals via the Cek1 MAP kinase pathway to maintain cell wall integrity and allow filamentous growth. Msb2 doubly epitope-tagged in its large extracellular and small cytoplasmic domain was efficiently cleaved during liquid and surface growth and the extracellular domain was almost quantitatively released into the growth medium. Msb2 cleavage was independent of proteases Sap9, Sap10 and Kex2. Secreted Msb2 was highly O-glycosylated by protein mannosyltransferases including Pmt1 resulting in an apparent molecular mass of >400 kDa. Deletion analyses revealed that the transmembrane region is required for Msb2 function, while the large N-terminal and the small cytoplasmic region function to downregulate Msb2 signaling or, respectively, allow its induction by tunicamycin. Purified extracellular Msb2 domain protected fungal and bacterial cells effectively from antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) histatin-5 and LL-37. AMP inactivation was not due to degradation but depended on the quantity and length of the Msb2 glycofragment. C. albicans msb2 mutants were supersensitive to LL-37 but not histatin-5, suggesting that secreted rather than cell-associated Msb2 determines AMP protection. Thus, in addition to its sensor function Msb2 has a second activity because shedding of its glycofragment generates AMP quorum resistance.
Pub.: 10 Feb '12, Pinned: 29 Jun '17
Abstract: Aspergillus fumigatus is an opportunistic fungal pathogen that invades pulmonary epithelial cells and vascular endothelial cells by inducing its own endocytosis, but the mechanism by which this process occurs is poorly understood. Here, we show that the thaumatin-like protein CalA is expressed on the surface of the A. fumigatus cell wall, where it mediates invasion of epithelial and endothelial cells. CalA induces endocytosis in part by interacting with integrin α5β1 on host cells. In corticosteroid-treated mice, a ΔcalA deletion mutant has significantly attenuated virulence relative to the wild-type strain, as manifested by prolonged survival, reduced pulmonary fungal burden and decreased pulmonary invasion. Pretreatment with an anti-CalA antibody improves survival of mice with invasive pulmonary aspergillosis, demonstrating the potential of CalA as an immunotherapeutic target. Thus, A. fumigatus CalA is an invasin that interacts with integrin α5β1 on host cells, induces endocytosis and enhances virulence.
Pub.: 15 Nov '16, Pinned: 29 Jun '17
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