Purification and characterization of factors produced by Aspergillus fumigatus which affect human ciliated respiratory epithelium

Infect Immun. 1995 Sep;63(9):3266-71. doi: 10.1128/iai.63.9.3266-3271.1995.


The mechanisms by which Aspergillus fumigatus colonizes the respiratory mucosa are unknown. Culture filtrates of eight of nine clinical isolates of A. fumigatus slowed ciliary beat frequency and damaged human respiratory epithelium in vitro. These changes appeared to occur concurrently. Culture filtrates of two clinical isolates of Candida albicans had no effect on ciliated epithelium. We have purified and characterized cilioinhibitory factors of a clinical isolate of A. fumigatus. The cilioinhibitory activity was heat labile, reduced by dialysis, and partially extractable into chloroform. The activity was associated with both high- and low-molecular-weight factors, as determined by gel filtration on Sephadex G-50. A low-molecular-weight cilioinhibitory factor was further purified by reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography and shown by mass spectrometry to be gliotoxin, a known metabolite of A. fumigatus. Gliotoxin significantly slowed ciliary beat frequency in association with epithelial damage at concentrations above 0.2 microgram/ml; other Aspergillus toxins, i.e., fumagillin and helvolic acid, were also cilioinhibitory but at much higher concentrations. High-molecular-weight (> or = 35,000 and 25,000) cilioinhibitory materials had neither elastolytic nor proteolytic activity and remain to be identified. Thus, A. fumigatus produces a number of biologically active substances which slow ciliary beating and damage epithelium and which may influence colonization of the airways.

MeSH terms

  • Aspergillus fumigatus / pathogenicity*
  • Cilia / drug effects
  • Gliotoxin / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycotoxins / isolation & purification*
  • Mycotoxins / toxicity
  • Nasal Mucosa / drug effects*


  • Mycotoxins
  • Gliotoxin