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PLoS One. 2008 Jul 9;3(7):e2655. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002655.

Genes differentially expressed in conidia and hyphae of Aspergillus fumigatus upon exposure to human neutrophils.

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Laboratory of Clinical Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, United States of America.



Aspergillus fumigatus is the most common etiologic agent of invasive aspergillosis in immunocompromised patients. Several studies have addressed the mechanism involved in host defense but only few have investigated the pathogen's response to attack by the host cells. To our knowledge, this is the first study that investigates the genes differentially expressed in conidia vs hyphae of A. fumigatus in response to neutrophils from healthy donors as well as from those with chronic granulomatous disease (CGD) which are defective in the production of reactive oxygen species.


Transcriptional profiles of conidia and hyphae exposed to neutrophils, either from normal donors or from CGD patients, were obtained by using the genome-wide microarray. Upon exposure to either normal or CGD neutrophils, 244 genes were up-regulated in conidia but not in hyphae. Several of these genes are involved in the degradation of fatty acids, peroxisome function and the glyoxylate cycle which suggests that conidia exposed to neutrophils reprogram their metabolism to adjust to the host environment. In addition, the mRNA levels of four genes encoding proteins putatively involved in iron/copper assimilation were found to be higher in conidia and hyphae exposed to normal neutrophils compared to those exposed to CGD neutrophils. Deletants in several of the differentially expressed genes showed phenotypes related to the proposed functions, i.e. deletants of genes involved in fatty acid catabolism showed defective growth on fatty acids and the deletants of iron/copper assimilation showed higher sensitivity to the oxidative agent menadione. None of these deletants, however, showed reduced resistance to neutrophil attack.


This work reveals the complex response of the fungus to leukocytes, one of the major host factors involved in antifungal defense, and identifies fungal genes that may be involved in establishing or prolonging infections in humans.

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