Scientists at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA) and the Max F. Perutz Laboratories (MFPL) in Vienna have discovered a new way to turn the immune system’s weapons against fungal invaders. This knowledge could lead to the development of new and improved anti-fungal treatments.
For most people, a simple case of thrush or athlete’s foot can be quickly and easily treated using over-the-counter anti-fungal creams and pills. However, even with medication, fungal pathogens can overwhelm a weakened immune system and cause systemic infections – as in people with HIV/AIDS, or organ transplant recipients, for example – posing a severe health risk.
In fact, fungal pathogens have been classified as “hidden killers” and an estimated 1.5 million people around the world die from such systemic infections every year. There is yet no effective medicine available for systemic fungal infections.
Knowing the enemy
When fungal cells enter the body, they stand out from our own cells because they are ‘flagged’ with unique patterns of molecular markers. These ‘pathogen-associated molecular patterns’, or PAMPs for short, are recognised by receptor proteins on cells of the immune system. These receptors then activate signalling molecules triggering a cascade of different immune functions, such as inflammation, aimed at recruiting immune cells to the infected area. Those recruited immune cells will then, for example via the production of highly toxic reactive oxygen species, eliminate fungal pathogens.
“Unleashing” an immune response
Candida albicans is recognized by certain PAMP receptors, called Dectins, and triggers activation of the signalling molecule SYK. The first authors of the study, Gerald Wirnsberger (IMBA) and Florian Zwolanek (MFPL), now discovered that the protein CBL-B acts as a ‘brake’ in this pathway: when CBL-B is present, Dectin and SYK activity are dampened and immune responses are eventually ‘switched off’, but when CBL-B is absent, Dectin/SYK get over-activated and a protective anti-fungal immune responses occur.
Using this knowledge, the two research groups around Josef Penninger (IMBA) and Karl Kuchler (MFPL) – designed an inhibitory peptide to block CBL-B activity and thereby unleash defence mechanisms against invading fungal pathogens. After successfully testing this peptide with lab-grown cells, the peptide was used to treat Candida albicans infected mice. While untreated mice succumbed to the lethal infection, peptide treatment provided complete protection from fungal disease.
Gerald Wirnsberger explains: “This work constitutes a novel paradigm in antifungal therapy – a pharmacological modulation of the host immune response mediated by CBLB. A fundamental understanding of how molecular mechanisms either boost or damp our immune response against Candida albicans will pave the way for a drugs against deadly fungal infections”.
„Inhibition of CBLB protects from lethal Candida albicans sepsis“.
Gerald Wirnsberger, Florian Zwolanek, Tomoko Asaoka, Ivona Kozieradzki, Luigi Tortola, Reiner A Wimmer, Anoop Kavirayani, Friedrich Fresser, Gottfried Baier, Wallace Y Langdon, Fumiyo Ikeda, Karl Kuchler & Josef M Penninger.
Nature Medicine, July 18, 2016. doi: 10.1038/nm.4134.
Dr. Bohrgasse 3, 1030 Vienna, Austria
Tel.: +43 664 808 47 3628
Mag. Ines Méhu-Blantar | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy