Distinct Cohorts of <em>Aspergillus fumigatus</em> Transcription Factors Are Required for Epithelial Damage Occurring <em>via</em> Contact- or Soluble Effector-Mediated Mechanisms

Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2022 Jul 28;12:907519. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2022.907519. eCollection 2022.


Damage to the lung epithelium is a unifying feature of disease caused by the saprophytic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus. However, the mechanistic basis and the regulatory control of such damage is poorly characterized. Previous studies have identified A. fumigatus mediated pathogenesis as occurring at early (≤ 16 hours) or late (>16 hours) phases of the fungal interaction with epithelial cells, and respectively involve direct contact with the host cell or the action of soluble factors produced by mature fungal hyphae. Both early and late phases of epithelial damage have been shown to be subject to genetic regulation by the pH-responsive transcription factor PacC. This study sought to determine whether other transcriptional regulators play a role in modulating epithelial damage. In particular, whether the early and late phases of epithelial damage are governed by same or distinct regulators. Furthermore, whether processes such as spore uptake and hyphal adhesion, that have previously been documented to promote epithelial damage, are governed by the same cohorts of epithelial regulators. Using 479 strains from the recently constructed library of A. fumigatus transcription factor null mutants, two high-throughput screens assessing epithelial cell detachment and epithelial cell lysis were conducted. A total of 17 transcription factor mutants were found to exhibit reproducible deficits in epithelial damage causation. Of these, 10 mutants were defective in causing early phase damage via epithelial detachment and 8 mutants were defective in causing late phase damage via epithelial lysis. Remarkably only one transcription factor, PacC, was required for causation of both phases of epithelial damage. The 17 mutants exhibited varied and often unique phenotypic profiles with respect to fitness, epithelial adhesion, cell wall defects, and rates of spore uptake by epithelial cells. Strikingly, 9 out of 10 mutants deficient in causing early phase damage also exhibited reduced rates of hyphal extension, and culture supernatants of 7 out of 8 mutants deficient in late phase damage were significantly less cytotoxic. Our study delivers the first high-level overview of A. fumigatus regulatory genes governing lung epithelial damage, suggesting highly coordinated genetic orchestration of host-damaging activities that govern epithelial damage in both space and time.

PMID:35982778 | PMC:PMC9379863 | DOI:10.3389/fcimb.2022.907519

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