The discovery of a sexual cycle in the fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus is highly significant in understanding the biology and evolution of the species and will shed new light on its ability to adapt to new environments and its resistance to antifungal drugs. It is hoped the results of this research will lead to new ways of controlling this deadly disease and improved treatments for patients infected with it.
First described 145 years ago this killer fungus, until now, had no known sexual cycle and was only thought to reproduce by production of asexual spores. But researchers from the School of Biology at The University of Nottingham and from University College Dublin, have finally been able to induce sexual reproduction in this potentially lethal pathogen showing, for the first time, that A. fumigatus possesses a fully functional sexual reproductive cycle.
Dr Paul Dyer is an expert in the sexual development and population variation of fungi and co-author of ‘Discovery of a sexual cycle in the opportunistic fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus’, which will be published in Nature on 30 November 2008.
Dr Dyer said: “This discovery is significant for providing both good and bad news. The bad news is that we now know that Aspergillus fumigatus can reproduce sexually, meaning that it is more likely to become resistant to antifungal drugs in a shorter period, and the sexual spores are better at surviving harsh environmental conditions. The good news is that we can use the newly discovered sexual cycle as a valuable tool in laboratory experiments to try to work out how the fungus causes disease and triggers asthmatic reactions. Once we understand the genetic basis of disease we can then look forward to devising methods to control and overcome the fungus”.
The spores of A. fumigatus, which feeds on dead or decaying organic matter, are widespread in the atmosphere. It has been estimated that everybody inhales around 200 spores each day. These spores are normally eliminated by the innate immune response. However, this fungus has become the most prevalent airborne fungal pathogen due to its ability to cause infections in hosts with a weakened immune system, with at least a 50 per cent mortality rate in humans. Four per cent of patients in modern European teaching hospitals have invasive aspergillosis; it is the leading infectious cause of death in leukaemia and bone marrow transplant patients. The fungus is also associated with severe asthma and sinusitis.
Almost one-fifth of all fungi have no known sexual stage — these include many Aspergillus, Penicillium, Coccidioides and Malassezia species which are of major economic and medical importance. However, some of these species have apparently functional sex related genes and this research could lead to a sexual revolution for many other of these supposed ‘asexuals’.
The research was carried out in collaboration with Dr Hubert Fuller and his final year PhD student Céline O’Gorman from the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science at University College Dublin. The study was funded by an IRCSET Postgraduate Research Scholarship, an EC Marie Curie Training Fellowship and a grant from the British Mycological Society, which facilitated research visits by Céline O’Gorman to The University of Nottingham.
Many fungi reproduce by sexual means. The molecular-genetic and physiological mechanisms controlling sex in fungi are being investigated at The University of Nottingham with the aim of devising new methods for the control of fungal diseases and promoting sex in beneficial species. The consequences of sex for genetic variation and evolution are being studied in model species of fungi including plant pathogens and Antarctic lichen-forming fungi.
Lindsay Brooke | alfa
Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences