Host-Imposed Copper Poisoning Impacts Fungal Micronutrient Acquisition during Systemic Candida albicans Infections

Joanna MacKie* (Corresponding Author), Edina K Szabo, Dagmar S Urgast, Elizabeth R. Ballou, Delma S. Childers, Donna M. MacCallum, Joerg Feldmann, Alistair J. P. Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)
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Nutritional immunity is a process whereby an infected host manipulates essential micronutrients to defend against an invading pathogen. We reveal a dynamic aspect of nutritional
immunity during infection that involves copper assimilation. Using a combination of laser ablation inductively coupled mass spectrometry (LA-ICP MS) and metal mapping, immunohistochemistry, and gene expression profiling from infected tissues, we show that readjustments in hepatic, splenic and renal copper homeostasis accompany disseminated Candida
albicans infections in the mouse model. Localized host-imposed copper poisoning manifests itself as a transient increase in copper early in the kidney infection. Changes in renal copper are detected by the fungus, as revealed by gene expression profiling and fungal virulence studies. The fungus responds by differentially regulating the Crp1 copper efflux pump (higher expression during early infection and down-regulation late in infection) and the Ctr1 copper importer (lower expression during early infection, and subsequent up-regulation late in infection) to maintain copper homeostasis during disease progression. Both Crp1 and Ctr1 are required for full fungal virulence. Importantly, copper homeostasis influences other virulence traits—metabolic flexibility and oxidative stress resistance. Our study highlights the importance of copper homeostasis for host defence and fungal virulence during systemic disease.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0158683
Number of pages18
JournalPloS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the European Research Council ( STRIFE Advanced Grant ERC-2009-AdG-249793). A.J.P.B. was also supported by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Research Council ( Research Grants BB/F00513X/1, BB/K017365/1), the UK Medical Research Council ( Programme Grant MR/M026663/1; Centre Grant MR/ N006364/1), and the Wellcome Trust ( Strategic Award 097377)


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