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Enhanced binding of Aspergillus fumigatus spores to A549 epithelial cells and extracellular matrix proteins by a component from the spore surface and inhibition by rat lung lavage fluid
  1. Zhan Yang,
  2. Stephanie M Jaeckisch,
  3. Colin G Mitchell
  1. Biomedicine Research Group, School of Life Sciences, Napier University, Edinburgh EH10 5DT, UK
  1. Dr C G Mitchell email: c.mitchell{at}


BACKGROUND Aspergillus fumigatus is a pathogenic fungus which causes a range of diseases, particularly in the human lung. The pathological mechanism is unknown but may involve a complex mixture of biomolecules which can diffuse from the spore surface. This material is known asA fumigatus diffusate (AfD) and has previously been shown to have a range of immunosuppressive functions. It is hypothesised that AfD may influence the binding of spores to extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins and lung epithelial cells, thereby affecting the ability of the fungus to cause infection.

METHODS The binding of spores to ECM proteins and to epithelial cells was carried out using a direct binding assay in microtitre plates and spores were counted by phase contrast microscopy. Rat bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid was enriched for surfactant protein D (SP-D) using maltose agarose affinity chromatography. The effects of AfD and the SP-D enriched BAL fluid were assessed by pre-incubation with ECM proteins or epithelial cells in the direct binding assay.

RESULTS AfD enhanced the binding of spores to laminin by 137% and to A549 epithelial cells by 250%. SP-D enriched BAL fluid inhibited spore binding to ECM proteins and epithelial cells. Pre-incubation of ECM proteins and epithelial cells with SP-D enriched BAL fluid prevented the enhancement of spore binding by AfD, and pre-incubation of ECM proteins and epithelial cells with AfD prevented the inhibition of spore binding by SP-D enriched BAL fluid. This pretreatment did not prevent the enhancement of spore binding, giving an increase of 95% for collagen I, 80% for fibronectin, 75% for laminin, and 150% for A549 cells.

CONCLUSIONS The hypothesis that AfD would affect spore binding to ECM proteins and epithelial cells was confirmed. Rat BAL fluid, with SP-D as the possible bioactive agent, prevented this enhancement. The in vivo significance is unclear but the enhanced binding of spores may increase the chance of fungal infection in the lung which could be prevented by the protective effects of lung surfactant components (possibly SP-D). The results suggest that there may be competition between AfD and a BAL fluid component (possibly SP-D) for the same or similar binding sites on ECM proteins and epithelial cells. Whether this competition occurs in vivo requires further investigation.

  • Aspergillus fumigatus
  • surfactant protein D
  • bronchoalveolar lavage fluid
  • A549 epithelial cells
  • extracellular matrix proteins

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