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biochemical and structural studies of lectines from opportunistic filamentous fungi

Abstract : The aim of this thesis was to contribute to the understanding of infection strategies of the opportunistic pathogen Aspergillusfumigatus. This pathogenic mould is an emerging cause of morbidity and mortality in immuno-compromised patients and hospital environments. An infection with Aspergillus is generally referred to as Aspergillosis; it can develop in a variety of organs but the most common sites are the respiratory apparatus i.e. lungs and sinuses. Besides infections (invasive aspergillosis), colonization with the fungus can cause allergic reactions (allergic broncho pulmonary aspergillosis) and asthma. The number of immuno-suppressed patients is steadily increasing due to advancement in the HIV, cancer and cystic fibrosis medical care, as well as an increasing number of organ transplantations. Needless to say that new antifungal drugs and preventive medication is desperately needed to support medical care for those patients. Even though several fungicides already exist on the market, invasive aspergillosis remains to be often fatal. On one hand, this is due to difficulties in diagnosis and on the other hand, resistances are emerging rapidly. The motivation behind this thesis is to understand the underlying mechanisms that are involved in the first contact between conidial spores and host tissues. Initial adhesion steps often involve carbohydrate binding proteins, called lectins. They recognize glycoconjugates such as glycoproteins, glycolipids and glycosaminoglycans which cover the epithelial tissue and mucosal surface of the respiratory tract.. Identification and characterization of the lectins from A. fumigatus will therefore contribute to the understanding of the glycostrategy of this opportunistic pathogen and of the mechanisms involved in adhesion and infection. Detailed structural analysis of the carbohydrate-protein interactions will allow ascertaining the lectins role in virulence and guide the design of glycomimetics, as adhesion inhibitors. With this novel approach of targeting the pathogen adhesion rather than its proliferation, resistances are believed to be less frequent due to the lack of evolutionary pressure. In this work, two different strategies were employed to obtain novel lectins. Firstly, lectins were purified from crude fungal extracts and secondly the A. fumigatus genome was screened for encoded proteins showing sequence similarity with known fungal lectins. While lectin purification from the crude extracts was inconclusive due to low lectin activity in the starting material, genome screening showed that several putative lectins were present. One of these lectins, named AFL6, belonged to the cyanovirin-N homolog (CVNH) family and it was recombinantly expressed and purified. Glycan array and micro calorimetry techniques were carried out to investigate its carbohydrate binding specificityand the three dimensional structure was determined using X-ray crystallography. The structure showed an overall similarity with other CVNHs with slight differences in the presumed carbohydrate binding sites. Unlike other family members, it shows a low affinity for mannosides and an apparent affinity for lactosamine containing glycan structures.
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Dörte Hündling. biochemical and structural studies of lectines from opportunistic filamentous fungi. Biochemistry, Molecular Biology. Université Grenoble Alpes, 2015. English. ⟨NNT : 2015GREAV055⟩. ⟨tel-01684241⟩

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