JCVI: A Metalloproteinase of Coccidioides posadasii Contributes to Evasion of Host Detection
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Hung, C. Y., Seshan, K. R., Yu, J. J., Schaller, R., Xue, J., Basrur, V., Gardner, M. J., Cole, G. T.

A Metalloproteinase of Coccidioides posadasii Contributes to Evasion of Host Detection

Infect Immun. 2005 Oct 01; 73(10): 6689-703.

PubMed Citation


Coccidioides posadasii is a fungal respiratory pathogen of humans that can cause disease in immunocompetent individuals. Coccidioidomycosis ranges from a mild to a severe infection. It is frequently characterized either as a persistent disease that requires months to resolve or as an essentially asymptomatic infection that can reactivate several years after the original insult. In this report we describe a mechanism by which the pathogen evades host detection during the pivotal reproductive (endosporulation) phase of the parasitic cycle. A metalloproteinase (Mep1) secreted during endospore differentiation digests an immunodominant cell surface antigen (SOWgp) and prevents host recognition of endospores during the phase of development when these fungal cells are most vulnerable to phagocytic cell defenses. C57BL/6 mice were immunized with recombinant SOWgp and then challenged with a mutant strain of C. posadasii in which the MEP1 gene was disrupted. The animals showed a significant increase in percent survival compared to SOWgp-immune mice challenged with the parental strain. To explain these results, we proposed that retention of SOWgp on the surfaces of endospores of the mutant strain in the presence of high titers of antibody to the immunodominant antigen contributes to opsonization, increased phagocytosis, and killing of the fungal cells. In vitro studies of the interaction between a murine alveolar macrophage cell line and parasitic cells coated with SOWgp showed that the addition of anti-SOWgp antibody could enhance phagocytosis and killing of Coccidioides. We suggest that Mep1 plays a pivotal role as a pathogenicity determinant during coccidioidal infections and contributes to the ability of the pathogen to persist within the mammalian host.