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Fungus uses copper detoxification as crafty defense mechanism
Date:3/14/2013

ubstances inside the macrophages is copper, a mineral the body needs for normal cognitive function and development, but also known to have antifungal properties. In the face of a pathogenic invasion of fungal spores, the macrophages begin concentrating more copper within their torture chamber as one of the body's antifungal weapons.

The Duke researchers found that lethal strains of C. neoformans have two ways of battling against the toxicity of the copper. First, the pathogen turns on genes that make proteins to protect it from copper toxicity, so even when exposed to the hostile copper environment in the macrophages, it survives.

But a second defense mechanism is also deployed. The fungus, sensing the copper-rich environment, triggers a response that shuts down the host's ability to pump more copper into the macrophages defusing this weapon in the immune system's arsenal.

"With these two mechanisms, C. neoformans can defend itself by sequestering the copper, and somehow communicate to the host macrophage, commanding that it shut down the copper pumps," Thiele said.

Thiele said studies are now focusing on how antifungal agents might thwart the pathogen's two defense systems. "The detoxification machinery might represent an effective drug target," Thiele said.


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Contact: Sarah Avery
sarah.avery@duke.edu
919-660-1306
Duke University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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