The Aspergillus fumigatus Mucin MsbA Regulates the Cell Wall Integrity Pathway and Controls Recognition of the Fungus by the Immune System.

Author: 

Gurgel ILDS, Jorge KTOS, Malacco NLSO, Souza JAM, Rocha MC, Fernandes MF, Martins FRB, Malavazi I, Teixeira MM, Soriani FM.
mSphere. 2019 Jun 19;4(3). pii: e00350-19

Abstract: 

Aspergillus fumigatus is a filamentous fungus which causes invasive pulmonary aspergillosis in immunocompromised individuals. In fungi, cell signaling and cell wall plasticity are crucial for maintaining physiologic processes. In this context, Msb2 is an important signaling mucin responsible for activation of a variety of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-dependent signaling pathways that regulate cell growth in several organisms, such as the cell wall integrity (CWI) pathway. Here, we aimed to characterize the MSB2 homologue in A. fumigatus Our results showed that MsbA plays a role in the vegetative and reproductive development of the fungus, in stress adaptation, and in resistance to antifungal drugs by modulating the CWI pathway gene expression. Importantly, cell wall composition is also responsible for activation of diverse receptors of the host immune system, thus leading to a proper immune response. In a model of acute Aspergillus pulmonary infection, results demonstrate that the ΔmsbA mutant strain induced less inflammation with diminished cell influx into the lungs and lower cytokine production, culminating in increased lethality rate. These results characterize for the first time the role of the signaling mucin MsbA in the pathogen A. fumigatus, as a core sensor for cell wall morphogenesis and an important regulator of virulence.

IMPORTANCE Aspergillus fumigatus is an opportunistic fungus with great medical importance. During infection, Aspergillus grows, forming hyphae that colonize the lung tissue and invade and spread over the mammal host, resulting in high mortality rates. The knowledge of the mechanisms responsible for regulation of fungal growth and virulence comprises an important point to better understand fungal physiology and host-pathogen interactions. Msb2 is a mucin that acts as a sensor and an upstream regulator of the MAPK pathway responsible for fungal development in Candida albicans and Aspergillus nidulans Here, we show the role of the signaling mucin MsbA in the pathogen A. fumigatus, as a core sensor for cell wall morphogenesis, fungal growth, and virulence. Moreover, we show that cell wall composition, controlled by MsbA, is detrimental for fungal recognition and clearance by immune cells. Our findings are important for the understanding of how fungal sensors modulate cell physiology.