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Open Access Research

Development stage-specific proteomic profiling uncovers small, lineage specific proteins most abundant in the Aspergillus Fumigatus conidial proteome

Moo-Jin Suh1, Natalie D Fedorova1, Steven E Cagas2, Susan Hastings3, Robert D Fleischmann1, Scott N Peterson1, David S Perlin2, William C Nierman1, Rembert Pieper1* and Michelle Momany3

  • * Corresponding author: Rembert Pieper rpieper@jcvi.org

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 The J. Craig Venter Institute, 9704 Medical Center Drive, Rockville, MD, USA

2 University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, NJ, USA

3 Department of Plant Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA

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Proteome Science 2012, 10:30  doi:10.1186/1477-5956-10-30

Published: 30 April 2012

Abstract

Background

The pathogenic mold Aspergillus fumigatus is the most frequent infectious cause of death in severely immunocompromised individuals such as leukemia and bone marrow transplant patients. Germination of inhaled conidia (asexual spores) in the host is critical for the initiation of infection, but little is known about the underlying mechanisms of this process.

Results

To gain insights into early germination events and facilitate the identification of potential stage-specific biomarkers and vaccine candidates, we have used quantitative shotgun proteomics to elucidate patterns of protein abundance changes during early fungal development. Four different stages were examined: dormant conidia, isotropically expanding conidia, hyphae in which germ tube emergence has just begun, and pre-septation hyphae. To enrich for glycan-linked cell wall proteins we used an alkaline cell extraction method. Shotgun proteomic resulted in the identification of 375 unique gene products with high confidence, with no evidence for enrichment of cell wall-immobilized and secreted proteins. The most interesting discovery was the identification of 52 proteins enriched in dormant conidia including 28 proteins that have never been detected in the A. fumigatus conidial proteome such as signaling protein Pil1, chaperones BipA and calnexin, and transcription factor HapB. Additionally we found many small, Aspergillus specific proteins of unknown function including 17 hypothetical proteins. Thus, the most abundant protein, Grg1 (AFUA_5G14210), was also one of the smallest proteins detected in this study (M.W. 7,367). Among previously characterized proteins were melanin pigment and pseurotin A biosynthesis enzymes, histones H3 and H4.1, and other proteins involved in conidiation and response to oxidative or hypoxic stress. In contrast, expanding conidia, hyphae with early germ tubes, and pre-septation hyphae samples were enriched for proteins responsible for housekeeping functions, particularly translation, respiratory metabolism, amino acid and carbohydrate biosynthesis, and the tricarboxylic acid cycle.

Conclusions

The observed temporal expression patterns suggest that the A. fumigatus conidia are dominated by small, lineage-specific proteins. Some of them may play key roles in host-pathogen interactions, signal transduction during conidial germination, or survival in hostile environments.

Keywords:
Mass spectrometry; LC-MS/MS; APEX; Shotgun proteomics; Aspergillus fumigatus; Germination; Spore; Conidia; Fungi; Hypothetical proteins