Network on Aspergillus and Aspergillosis

Author: 

J.P. LatgÉ, A. Brakhage, G. Turner
Workshop: Genomics and Post-genomics in Aspergillus fumigatus

Abstract: 

Dr Latgé welcomed the participants and thanked the ESF for their funding. He overviewed the aims of the meeting which were to learn from other fungal fields especially from Saccharomyces research and to define research options and strategies, especially those which will assist in the understanding of A. fumigatus pathogenicity. The political issues that have to be considered are the genome efforts that are going on elsewhere, such as the shotgun sequencing being done by private companies (Incyte and Elitra [the meeting subsequently learnt that Incyte have sold their sequence to Elitra]). The clinical issues that have to be considered are that 1-2/100,000 die from aspergillosis based on autopsy data, diagnosis is often too late, the antifungal drugs in use are not efficient and its pathobiology is not well understood. It must be remembered that, because A. fumigatus is a saprophytic fungus, it survives in diverse environments and that therefore there is probably a lot of genetic redundancy and a lot of different regulatory systems in its genome (compare with Pseudomonas aeruginosa). Using publication data, Dr Latgé illustrated that there is little manpower in the Aspergillus/Neurospora research fields with probably a 1/20th of the total in the Saccharomyces field. As an example, he explained that the deletion of genes would take 80 years with the present community at a rate of 60-120 per year. Therefore it was essential to learn what to do from the yeast communities. For instance, should there be central facilities to serve researchers in the post-genomic era where the options might be to provide transcriptome and proteome services, and bioinformatics support? The genome sequence will facilitate the study of gene families, will be useful for microsatellite analysis and will enable comparisons with other genomes to find for instance genes only present in the more pathogenic Aspergillus species such as A. fumigatus and A. flavus. Comparative studies with yeast will help identify genes present only in filamentous fungi which will be involved in polarity determination, septation, etc. In the post-genomic era, it should be possible to address the pathogenicity of A. fumigatus. What are the early steps in the infection process? What antigens are released which might be useful for early detection? The questions that need to be addressed regarding transcriptome analysis are: should macro- or micro-arrays be used, which genes should be studied - are the most highly expressed the most important? With regard to proteome analysis, what are the technical issues? How do you study membrane proteins? Dr Latgé finished by hoping that some of these questions would be addressed by this workshop. Another issue that needs to be addressed according to Dr Dixon, is the need to recruit additional researchers and to convince them to study a filamentous organism. As part of the process, the NIH will be issuing a solicitation for therapeutics and aspergillosis was listed.