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Category: publications

Inherently Reduced Expression of ASC Restricts Caspase-1 Processing in Hepatocytes and Promotes Plasmodium Infection

Fig. 1 Inherently reduced expression of pro–caspase-1 and ASC in hepatocytes.
Inherently reduced expression of pro–caspase-1 and ASC in hepatocytes.

 

Inflammasome-mediated caspase-1 activation facilitates innate immune control of Plasmodium in the liver, thereby limiting the incidence and severity of clinical malaria. However, caspase-1 processing occurs incompletely in both mouse and human hepatocytes and precludes the generation of mature IL-1β or IL-18, unlike in other cells. Why this is so or how it impacts Plasmodium control in the liver has remained unknown. We show that an inherently reduced expression of the inflammasome adaptor molecule apoptosis-associated specklike protein containing CARD (ASC) is responsible for the incomplete proteolytic processing of caspase-1 in murine hepatocytes. Transgenically enhancing ASC expression in hepatocytes enabled complete caspase-1 processing, enhanced pyroptotic cell death, maturation of the proinflammatory cytokines IL-1β and IL-18 that was otherwise absent, and better overall control of Plasmodium infection in the liver of mice. This, however, impeded the protection offered by live attenuated antimalarial vaccination. Tempering ASC expression in mouse macrophages, on the other hand, resulted in incomplete processing of caspase-1. Our work shows how caspase-1 activation and function in host cells are fundamentally defined by ASC expression and offers a potential new pathway to create better disease and vaccination outcomes by modifying the latter.

Camila Marques-da-Silva, Clyde Schmidt-Silva, Rodrigo P Baptista, Samarchith P Kurup. J Immunol. 2023 Dec 27:ji2300440. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.2300440. Online ahead of print.

On the origin and evolution of the mosquito male-determining factor Nix

Background and workflow.

The mosquito family Culicidae is divided into two subfamilies named the Culicinae and Anophelinae. Nix, the dominant male-determining factor, has only been found in the culicines Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus, two important arboviral vectors that belong to the subgenus Stegomyia. Here we performed sex-specific whole-genome sequencing and RNAseq of divergent mosquito species and explored additional male-inclusive datasets to investigate the distribution of Nix. Except for the Culex genus, Nix homologs were found in all species surveyed from the Culicinae subfamily, including 12 additional species from three highly divergent tribes comprising 4 genera, suggesting Nix originated at least 133-165 MYA. Heterologous expression of one of three divergent Nix ORFs in Ae. aegypti resulted in partial masculinization of genetic females as evidenced by morphology and doublesex splicing. Phylogenetic analysis suggests Nix is related to femaleless (fle), a recently described intermediate sex-determining factor found exclusively in anopheline mosquitoes. Nix from all species has a conserved structure, including three RNA-recognition motifs (RRMs), as does fle. However, Nix has evolved at a much faster rate than fle. The RRM3 of both Nix and fle are distantly related to the single RRM of a widely distributed and conserved splicing factor transformer-2 (tra2). RRM3-based phylogenetic analysis suggests this domain in Nix and fle may have evolved from tra2 or a tra2-related gene in a common ancestor of mosquitoes. Our results provide insights into the evolution of sex-determination in mosquitoes and will inform broad applications of mosquito-control strategies based on manipulating sex ratios towards the non-biting males.

James K Biedler, Azadeh Aryan, Yumin Qi, Aihua Wang, Ellen O Martinson, Daniel A Hartman, Fan Yang, Atashi Sharma, Katherine S Morton, Mark Potters, Chujia Chen, Stephen L Dobson, Gregory D Ebel, Rebekah C Kading, Sally Paulson, Rui-De Xue, Michael R Strand, Zhijian Tu. Mol Biol Evol. 2023 Dec 21:msad276. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msad276. Online ahead of print.

Atlas of Plasmodium falciparum intraerythrocytic development using expansion microscopy

Ultrastructural expansion microscopy (U-ExM) workflow and summary of parasite structures imaged in this study.
Ultrastructural expansion microscopy (U-ExM) workflow and summary of parasite structures imaged in this study.

Apicomplexan parasites exhibit tremendous diversity in much of their fundamental cell biology, but study of these organisms using light microscopy is often hindered by their small size. Ultrastructural expansion microscopy (U-ExM) is a microscopy preparation method that physically expands the sample by ~4.5×. Here, we apply U-ExM to the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum during the asexual blood stage of its lifecycle to understand how this parasite is organized in three dimensions. Using a combination of dye-conjugated reagents and immunostaining, we have cataloged 13 different P. falciparum structures or organelles across the intraerythrocytic development of this parasite and made multiple observations about fundamental parasite cell biology. We describe that the outer centriolar plaque and its associated proteins anchor the nucleus to the parasite plasma membrane during mitosis. Furthermore, the rhoptries, Golgi, basal complex, and inner membrane complex, which form around this anchoring site while nuclei are still dividing, are concurrently segregated and maintain an association to the outer centriolar plaque until the start of segmentation. We also show that the mitochondrion and apicoplast undergo sequential fission events while maintaining an association with the outer centriolar plaque during cytokinesis. Collectively, this study represents the most detailed ultrastructural analysis of P. falciparum during its intraerythrocytic development to date and sheds light on multiple poorly understood aspects of its organelle biogenesis and fundamental cell biology.

Benjamin Liffner, Ana Karla Cepeda Diaz, James Blauwkamp, David Anaguano, Sonja Frolich, Vasant Muralidharan, Danny W Wilson, Jeffrey D Dvorin, Sabrina Absalon. Elife. 2023 Dec 18:12:RP88088. doi: 10.7554/eLife.88088.

Advances in the cellular biology, biochemistry, and molecular biology of acidocalcisomes

Fig 1 Ultrastructure of acidocalcisomes
Fig 1 Ultrastructure of acidocalcisomes.

Acidocalcisomes are organelles conserved during evolution and closely related to the so-called volutin granules of bacteria and archaea, to the acidocalcisome-like vacuoles of yeasts, and to the lysosome-related organelles of animal species. All these organelles have in common their acidity and high content of polyphosphate and calcium. They are characterized by a variety of functions from storage of phosphorus and calcium to roles in Ca2+ signaling, osmoregulation, blood coagulation, and inflammation. They interact with other organelles through membrane contact sites or by fusion, and have several enzymes, pumps, transporters, and channels.

Roberto Docampo. Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2023 Dec 15:e0004223. doi: 10.1128/mmbr.00042-23.

Optimized strategy for real-time qPCR detection of Onchocerca volvulus DNA in pooled Simulium sp. blackfly vectors

Fig 1. Workflow for the selection of the optimal qPCR assay.
Fig 1. Workflow for the selection of the optimal qPCR assay.

 

Background: Onchocerca volvulus is a filarial parasite that is a major cause of dermatitis and blindness in endemic regions primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. Widespread efforts to control the disease caused by O. volvulus infection (onchocerciasis) began in 1974 and in recent years, following successful elimination of transmission in much of the Americas, the focus of efforts in Africa has moved from control to the more challenging goal of elimination of transmission in all endemic countries. Mass drug administration (MDA) with ivermectin has reached more than 150 million people and elimination of transmission has been confirmed in four South American countries, with at least two African countries having now stopped MDA as they approach verification of elimination. It is essential that accurate data for active transmission are used to assist in making the critical decision to stop MDA, since missing low levels of transmission and infection can lead to continued spread or recrudescence of the disease.

Methodology/principal findings: Current World Health Organization guidelines for MDA stopping decisions and post-treatment surveillance include screening pools of the Simulium blackfly vector for the presence of O. volvulus larvae using a PCR-ELISA-based molecular technique. In this study, we address the potential of an updated, practical, standardized molecular diagnostic tool with increased sensitivity and species-specificity by comparing several candidate qPCR assays. When paired with heat-stable reagents, a qPCR assay with a mitochondrial DNA target (OvND5) was found to be more sensitive and species-specific than an O150 qPCR, which targets a non-protein coding repetitive DNA sequence. The OvND5 assay detected 19/20 pools of 100 blackfly heads spiked with a single L3, compared to 16/20 for the O150 qPCR assay.

Conclusions/significance: Given the improved sensitivity, species-specificity and resistance to PCR inhibitors, we identified OvND5 as the optimal target for field sample detection. All reagents for this assay can be shipped at room temperature with no loss of activity. The qPCR protocol we propose is also simpler, faster, and more cost-effective than the current end-point molecular assays.

 

Mary Doherty, Jessica R Grant, Nils Pilotte, Sasisekhar Bennuru, Kerstin Fischer, Peter U Fischer, Sara Lustigman, Thomas B Nutman, Kenneth Pfarr, Achim Hoerauf, Thomas R Unnasch, Hassan K Hassan, Samuel Wanji, Patrick J Lammie, Eric Ottesen, Charles Mackenzie, Steven A Williams. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2023 Dec 14;17(12):e0011815. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0011815.

Trypanosoma cruzi heme responsive gene (TcHRG) plays a central role in orchestrating heme uptake in epimastigotes

Trypanosoma cruzi, a heme auxotrophic parasite, can control intracellular heme content by modulating heme responsive gene (TcHRG) expression when a free heme source is added to an axenic culture. Herein, we explored the role of TcHRG protein in regulating the uptake of heme derived from hemoglobin in epimastigotes. We demonstrate that the endogenous TcHRG (protein and mRNA) responded similarly to bound (hemoglobin) and free (hemin) heme. Endogenous TcHRG was found in the flagellar pocket boundaries and partially overlapping with the mitochondrion. On the other hand, endocytic null parasites were able to develop and exhibited a similar heme content compared to wild type when fed with hemoglobin, indicating that endocytosis is not the main entrance pathway for hemoglobin-derived heme in this parasite. Moreover, the overexpression of TcHRG led to an increase in heme content when hemoglobin was used as the heme source. Taken together, these results suggest that the uptake of hemoglobin-derived heme likely occurs through extracellular proteolysis of hemoglobin via the flagellar pocket, and this process is governed by TcHRG. In sum, T. cruzi epimastigotes control heme homeostasis by modulating TcHRG expression independently of the available source of heme.

Evelyn Tevere, Cecilia Beatriz Di Capua, Nathan Michael Chasen, Ronald Drew Etheridge, Julia Alejandra Cricco. FEBS J. 2023 Dec 13. doi: 10.1111/febs.17030.

Increased environmental microbial diversity reduces the disease risk of a mosquitocidal pathogen

Fig 6 Ch_R13E2-SpR systemically infects A. aegypti larvae.
Fig 6 Ch_R13E2-SpR systemically infects A. aegypti larvae.

The host-specific microbiotas of animals can both reduce and increase disease risks from pathogens. In contrast, how environmental microbial communities affect pathogens is largely unexplored. Aquatic habitats are of interest because water enables environmental microbes to readily interact with animal pathogens. Here, we focused on mosquitoes, which are important disease vectors as terrestrial adults but are strictly aquatic as larvae. We identified a pathogen of mosquito larvae from the field as a strain of Chromobacterium haemolyticum. Comparative genomic analyses and functional assays indicate this strain and other Chromobacterium are mosquitocidal but are also opportunistic pathogens of other animals. We also identify a critical role for diversity of the environmental microbiota in disease risk. Our study characterizes both the virulence mechanisms of a pathogen and the role of the environmental microbiota in disease risk to an aquatic animal of significant importance to human health.

Zhiwei Kang, Vincent G Martinson, Yin Wang, Kerri L Coon, Luca Valzania, Michael R Strand. mBio. 2023 Dec 6:e0272623. doi: 10.1128/mbio.02726-23.

Blood meals from ‘dead-end’ vertebrate hosts enhance transmission potential of malaria-infected mosquitoes

graphical abstract

Ingestion of an additional blood meal(s) by a hematophagic insect can accelerate development of several vector-borne parasites and pathogens. Most studies, however, offer blood from the same vertebrate host species as the original challenge (for e.g., human for primary and additional blood meals). Here, we show a second blood meal from bovine and canine hosts can also enhance sporozoite migration in Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes infected with the human- and rodent-restricted Plasmodium falciparum and P. berghei, respectively. The extrinsic incubation period (time to sporozoite appearance in salivary glands) showed more consistent reductions with blood from human and bovine donors than canine blood, although the latter’s effect may be confounded by the toxicity, albeit non-specific, associated with the anticoagulant used to collect whole blood from donors. The complex patterns of enhancement highlight the limitations of a laboratory system but are nonetheless reminiscent of parasite host-specificity and mosquito adaptations, and the genetic predisposition of An. stephensi for bovine blood. We suggest that in natural settings, a blood meal from any vertebrate host could accentuate the risk of human infections by P. falciparum: targeting vectors that also feed on animals, via endectocides for instance, may reduce the number of malaria-infected mosquitoes and thus directly lower residual transmission. Since endectocides also benefit animal health, our results underscore the utility of the One Health framework, which postulates that human health and well-being is interconnected with that of animals. We posit this framework will be further validated if our observations also apply to other vector-borne diseases which together are responsible for some of the highest rates of morbidity and mortality in socio-economically disadvantaged populations.

Ashutosh K Pathak, Justine C Shiau, Rafael C S Freitas, Dennis E Kyle. One Health. 2023 Jun 9:17:100582. doi: 10.1016/j.onehlt.2023.100582. eCollection 2023 Dec.

The mosquito Aedes aegypti requires a gut microbiota for normal fecundity, longevity and vector competence

Mosquitoes shift from detritus-feeding larvae to blood-feeding adults that can vector pathogens to humans and other vertebrates. The sugar and blood meals adults consume are rich in carbohydrates and protein but are deficient in other nutrients including B vitamins. Facultatively hematophagous insects like mosquitoes have been hypothesized to avoid B vitamin deficiencies by carryover of resources from the larval stage. However, prior experimental studies have also used adults with a gut microbiota that could provision B vitamins. Here, we used Aedes aegypti, which is the primary vector of dengue virus (DENV), to ask if carryover effects enable normal function in adults with no microbiota. We show that adults with no gut microbiota produce fewer eggs, live longer with lower metabolic rates, and exhibit reduced DENV vector competence but are rescued by provisioning B vitamins or recolonizing the gut with B vitamin autotrophs. We conclude carryover effects do not enable normal function.

Ruby E Harrison, Xiushuai Yang, Jai Hoon Eum, Vincent G Martinson, Xiaoyi Dou, Luca Valzania, Yin Wang, Bret M Boyd, Mark R Brown, Michael R Strand. Commun Biol. 2023 Nov 13;6(1):1154. doi: 10.1038/s42003-023-05545-z.

VEuPathDB: the eukaryotic pathogen, vector and host bioinformatics resource center in 2023

The Eukaryotic Pathogen, Vector and Host Informatics Resource (VEuPathDB, https://veupathdb.org) is a Bioinformatics Resource Center funded by the National Institutes of Health with additional funding from the Wellcome Trust. VEuPathDB supports >600 organisms that comprise invertebrate vectors, eukaryotic pathogens (protists and fungi) and relevant free-living or non-pathogenic species or hosts. Since 2004, VEuPathDB has analyzed omics data from the public domain using contemporary bioinformatic workflows, including orthology predictions via OrthoMCL, and integrated the analysis results with analysis tools, visualizations, and advanced search capabilities. The unique data mining platform coupled with >3000 pre-analyzed data sets facilitates the exploration of pertinent omics data in support of hypothesis driven research. Comparisons are easily made across data sets, data types and organisms. A Galaxy workspace offers the opportunity for the analysis of private large-scale datasets and for porting to VEuPathDB for comparisons with integrated data. The MapVEu tool provides a platform for exploration of spatially resolved data such as vector surveillance and insecticide resistance monitoring. To address the growing body of omics data and advances in laboratory techniques, VEuPathDB has added several new data types, searches and features, improved the Galaxy workspace environment, redesigned the MapVEu interface and updated the infrastructure to accommodate these changes.

Jorge Alvarez-Jarreta, et al. Nucleic Acids Res. 2023 Nov 11:gkad1003. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkad1003