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Rev Iberoam Micol. 2005 Mar;22(1):1-23.

Genes and molecules involved in Aspergillus fumigatus virulence.

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Departamento Inmunología, Microbiología y Parasitología, Facultad de Ciencia y Tecnología, Universidad del País Vasco, Spain.


Aspergillus fumigatus causes a wide range of diseases that include mycotoxicosis, allergic reactions and systemic diseases (invasive aspergillosis) with high mortality rates. Pathogenicity depends on immune status of patients and fungal strain. There is no unique essential virulence factor for development of this fungus in the patient and its virulence appears to be under polygenetic control. The group of molecules and genes associated with the virulence of this fungus includes many cell wall components, such as beta-(1-3)-glucan, galactomannan, galactomannanproteins (Afmp1 and Afmp2), and the chitin synthetases (Chs; chsE and chsG), as well as others. Some genes and molecules have been implicated in evasion from the immune response, such as the rodlets layer (rodA/hyp1 gene) and the conidial melanin-DHN (pksP/alb1 gene). The detoxifying systems for Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) by catalases (Cat1p and Cat2p) and superoxide dismutases (MnSOD and Cu, ZnSOD), had also been pointed out as essential for virulence. In addition, this fungus produces toxins (14 kDa diffusible substance from conidia, fumigaclavin C, aurasperon C, gliotoxin, helvolic acid, fumagilin, Asp-hemolysin, and ribotoxin Asp fI/mitogilin F/restrictocin), allergens (Asp f1 to Asp f23), and enzymatic proteins as alkaline serin proteases (Alp and Alp2), metalloproteases (Mep), aspartic proteases (Pep and Pep2), dipeptidyl-peptidases (DppIV and DppV), phospholipase C and phospholipase B (Plb1 and Plb2). These toxic substances and enzymes seems to be additive and/or synergistic, decreasing the survival rates of the infected animals due to their direct action on cells or supporting microbial invasion during infection. Adaptation ability to different trophic situations is an essential attribute of most pathogens. To maintain its virulence attributes A. fumigatus requires iron obtaining by hydroxamate type siderophores (ornitin monooxigenase/SidA), phosphorous obtaining (fos1, fos2, and fos3), signal transductional falls that regulate morphogenesis and/or usage of nutrients as nitrogen (rasA, rasB, rhbA), mitogen activated kinases (sakA codified MAP-kinase), AMPc-Pka signal transductional route, as well as others. In addition, they seem to be essential in this field the amino acid biosynthesis (cpcA and homoaconitase/lysF), the activation and expression of some genes at 37 degrees C (Hsp1/Asp f12, cgrA), some molecules and genes that maintain cellular viability (smcA, Prp8, anexins), etc. Conversely, knowledge about relationship between pathogen and immune response of the host has been improved, opening new research possibilities. The involvement of non-professional cells (endothelial, and tracheal and alveolar epithelial cells) and professional cells (natural killer or NK, and dendritic cells) in infection has been also observed. Pathogen Associated Molecular Patterns (PAMP) and Patterns Recognizing Receptors (PRR; as Toll like receptors TLR-2 and TLR-4) could influence inflammatory response and dominant cytokine profile, and consequently Th response to infec tion. Superficial components of fungus and host cell surface receptors driving these phenomena are still unknown, although some molecules already associated with its virulence could also be involved. Sequencing of A. fumigatus genome and study of gene expression during their infective process by using DNA microarray and biochips, promises to improve the knowledge of virulence of this fungus.

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