What makes Aspergillus fumigatus a successful pathogen? Genes and molecules involved in invasive aspergillosis

Rev Iberoam Micol. 2010 Oct-Dec;27(4):155-82. doi: 10.1016/j.riam.2010.10.003. Epub 2010 Oct 23.


Aspergillus fumigatus is an opportunistic pathogen that causes 90% of invasive aspergillosis (IA) due to Aspergillus genus, with a 50-95% mortality rate. It has been postulated that certain virulence factors are characteristic of A. fumigatus, but the "non-classical" virulence factors seem to be highly variable. Overall, published studies have demonstrated that the virulence of this fungus is multifactorial, associated with its structure, its capacity for growth and adaptation to stress conditions, its mechanisms for evading the immune system and its ability to cause damage to the host. In this review we intend to give a general overview of the genes and molecules involved in the development of IA. The thermotolerance section focuses on five genes related with the capacity of the fungus to grow at temperatures above 30°C (thtA, cgrA, afpmt1, kre2/afmnt1, and hsp1/asp f 12). The following sections discuss molecules and genes related to interaction with the host and with the immune responses. These sections include β-glucan, α-glucan, chitin, galactomannan, galactomannoproteins (afmp1/asp f 17 and afmp2), hydrophobins (rodA/hyp1 and rodB), DHN-melanin, their respective synthases (fks1, rho1-4, ags1-3, chsA-G, och1-4, mnn9, van1, anp1, glfA, pksP/alb1, arp1, arp2, abr1, abr2, and ayg1), and modifying enzymes (gel1-7, bgt1, eng1, ecm33, afpigA, afpmt1-2, afpmt4, kre2/afmnt1, afmnt2-3, afcwh41 and pmi); several enzymes related to oxidative stress protection such as catalases (catA, cat1/catB, cat2/katG, catC, and catE), superoxide dismutases (sod1, sod2, sod3/asp f 6, and sod4), fatty acid oxygenases (ppoA-C), glutathione tranferases (gstA-E), and others (afyap1, skn7, and pes1); and efflux transporters (mdr1-4, atrF, abcA-E, and msfA-E). In addition, this review considers toxins and related genes, such as a diffusible toxic substance from conidia, gliotoxin (gliP and gliZ), mitogillin (res/mitF/asp f 1), hemolysin (aspHS), festuclavine and fumigaclavine A-C, fumitremorgin A-C, verruculogen, fumagillin, helvolic acid, aflatoxin B1 and G1, and laeA. Two sections cover genes and molecules related with nutrient uptake, signaling and metabolic regulations involved in virulence, including enzymes, such as serine proteases (alp/asp f 13, alp2, and asp f 18), metalloproteases (mep/asp f 5, mepB, and mep20), aspartic proteases (pep/asp f 10, pep2, and ctsD), dipeptidylpeptidases (dppIV and dppV), and phospholipases (plb1-3 and phospholipase C); siderophores and iron acquisition (sidA-G, sreA, ftrA, fetC, mirB-C, and amcA); zinc acquisition (zrfA-H, zafA, and pacC); amino acid biosynthesis, nitrogen uptake, and cross-pathways control (areA, rhbA, mcsA, lysF, cpcA/gcn4p, and cpcC/gcn2p); general biosynthetic pathway (pyrG, hcsA, and pabaA), trehalose biosynthesis (tpsA and tpsB), and other regulation pathways such as those of the MAP kinases (sakA/hogA, mpkA-C, ste7, pbs2, mkk2, steC/ste11, bck1, ssk2, and sho1), G-proteins (gpaA, sfaD, and cpgA), cAMP-PKA signaling (acyA, gpaB, pkaC1, and pkaR), His kinases (fos1 and tcsB), Ca(2+) signaling (calA/cnaA, crzA, gprC and gprD), and Ras family (rasA, rasB, and rhbA), and others (ace2, medA, and srbA). Finally, we also comment on the effect of A. fumigatus allergens (Asp f 1-Asp f 34) on IA. The data gathered generate a complex puzzle, the pieces representing virulence factors or the different activities of the fungus, and these need to be arranged to obtain a comprehensive vision of the virulence of A. fumigatus. The most recent gene expression studies using DNA-microarrays may be help us to understand this complex virulence, and to detect targets to develop rapid diagnostic methods and new antifungal agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aspergillus fumigatus / genetics*
  • Aspergillus fumigatus / pathogenicity*
  • Aspergillus fumigatus / physiology
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Humans