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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Probing the interaction of Aspergillus fumigatus conidia and human airway epithelial cells by transcriptional profiling in both species Gomez, Pol


The cells of the airway epithelium play critical roles in host defense to inhaled irritants, and in asthma pathogenesis. These cells are constantly exposed to environmental factors, including the conidia of the ubiquitous mould Aspergillus fumigatus, which are small enough to reach the alveoli. A. fumigatus is associated with a spectrum of diseases ranging from asthma and allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis to aspergilloma and invasive aspergillosis. Airway epithelial cells have been shown to internalize A. fumigatus conidia in vitro, but the implications of this process for pathogenesis remain unclear. We have developed a cell culture model for this interaction using the human bronchial epithelium cell line 16HBE and a transgenic A. fumigatus strain expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP). Immunofluorescent staining and nystatin protection assays indicated that cells internalized upwards of 50% of bound conidia. Using fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), cells directly interacting with conidia and cells not associated with any conidia were sorted into separate samples, with an overall accuracy of 75%. Genome-wide transcriptional profiling using microarrays revealed significant responses of 16HBE cells and conidia to each other. Significant changes in gene expression were identified between cells and conidia incubated alone versus together, as well as between GFP positive and negative sorted cells. The identification of biologically relevant responses in both species validates this methodology, and motivates further work to characterize the interactions between A. fumigatus conidia and primary airway epithelial cells obtained from normal and asthmatic patients.

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