Production of Melanin Pigment by Fungi and Its Biotechnological Applications

This is fascinating. To me anyways. It goes a long way in explaining why each and every one of us has differences in skin pigmentation. We really are all just the same. It’s our microbes that are different.


By Sandra R. Pombeiro-Sponchiado, Gabriela S. Sousa, Jazmina C. R. Andrade, Helen F. Lisboa and Rita C. R. Gonçalves

Submitted: June 1st 2016Reviewed: December 28th 2016Published: March 1st 2017

DOI: 10.5772/67375


Abstract

Production of the microbial pigments is one of the emerging fields of research due to a growing interest of the industry for safer products, easily degradable and eco-friendly. Fungi constitute a valuable source of pigments because they are capable of producing high yields of the substance in the cheap culture medium, making the bioprocess economically viable on the industrial scale. Some fungal species produce a dark-brown pigment, known as melanin, by oxidative polymerization of phenolic compounds, such as glutaminyl-3,4-dihydroxybenzene (GDHB) or catechol or 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN) or 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA). This pigment has been reported to act as “fungal armor” due to its ability to protect fungi from adverse conditions, neutralizing oxidants generated in response to stress. Apart from the scavenging activity, melanin exhibits other biological activities, including thermoregulatory, radio- and photoprotective, antimicrobial, antiviral, cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory. Studies have shown that the media composition and cultivation conditions affect the pigment production in fungi and the manipulation of these parameters can result in an increase in pigment yield for large-scale pigment production. This chapter presents a comprehensive discussion of the research on fungal melanin, including the recently discovered biological activities and the potential use of this pigment for various biotechnological applications in the fields of biomedicine, dermocosmetics, materials science, and nanotechnology.

Keywords

  • fungi
  • pigment
  • melanin
  • biological activity
  • industrial applications

1. Introduction

Considering the harmful effects of synthetic dyes on human health and to the environment, developmental process for obtaining pigments from natural sources has become significant worldwide. Microbial pigments have gained attention owing to a growing interest of the industry in safer products, easily degradable, eco-friendly and do not cause harmful effects. The pigment production from microorganisms is considered more advantageous because it is a more efficient and cost-effective process than chemical synthesis of pigments. Microorganisms are also more feasible sources of pigments in comparison to pigments extracted from plants and animals because they do not have seasonal constraints, do not compete for limited farming land with actual foods, and can be produced easily in the cheap culture medium with high yields [16]. Besides, the microorganisms produce an extraordinary range of pigments that include several chemical classes such as carotenoids, melanins, flavins, phenazines, quinones, monascins, violacein, or indigo, as shown in Table 1.

Pigment Microorganism
Indigoidine (blue-green) Streptomyces aureofaciens CCM 323, Corynebacterium insidiosum
Carotenoid (orange) Gemmatimonas aurantiaca T-27
Melanin (black-brown) Kluyveromyces marxianusStreptomyces chibanensisCryptococcus neoformansAspergillus sp., Wangiella dermatitidisSporothrix schenckii, and Burkholderia cepacia
Prodigiosin (red) Serratia marcescensRugamonas rubraStreptoverticillium rsubrireticuliSerratia rubidaeaVibrio psychroerythrusAlteromonas rubra, and Vibrio gazogenes
Zeaxanthin (yellow) Staphylococcus aureusVibrio psychroerythrusStreptomyces sp., and Hahella chejuensis
Canthaxanthin (orange) Monascus roseusBradyrhizobium sp.
Xanthomonadin (yellow) Xanthomonas oryzae
Astaxanthin (red) Phaffia rhodozymaHaematococcus pluvialis
Violacein (purple) Janthinobacterium lividum
Anthraquinone (red) Paecilomyces farinosus
Halorhodopsin and rhodopsin (pink Halobacterium halobium
Rosy pink Lamprocystis roseopersicina
Violet/purple Thiocystis violaceaThiodictyon elegans
Rosy peach Thiocapsa roseopersicina
Orange brown Allochromatium vinosum
Pink/purple violet Allochromatium warmingii

Table 1.

Pigments produced by different microorganisms. Adapted from Ref. [3].

Among microbial species, fungi represent an economically significant source of these compounds because they can act as microbial cell factories producing high yields of metabolites with great diverse chemical structures combined with ease of large-scale cultivation [79].

As shown in Table 1, some fungal species produce a dark-brown pigment, known as melanin. In general, this pigment is located in the outermost layer of the cell wall associated with chitin (referred as cell wall-bound melanin), but in some fungi, melanin can also be found outside the fungal cell, usually in the form of granules in culture fluids [10].

Fungal melanins are negatively charged, hydrophobic pigments of high molecular weight formed by oxidative polymerization from phenolic and/or indolic compounds, such as glutaminyl-3,4-dihydroxybenzene (GDHB) or catechol or 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN) or 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA). Most Ascomycota fungi synthesize DHN-melanin from the polyketide synthase pathway, whereas few species are able to produce melanin through L-DOPA, in a pathway that resembles mammalian melanin biosynthesis [1113].

The melanin pigment is not essential for fungal development, but it has been reported to act as “fungal armor” due to its ability to protect the microorganisms from harmful environmental conditions. In vitro studies have shown that melanized fungi are more resistant to UV light-induced and oxidant-mediated damages, temperature extremes, hydrolytic enzymes, heavy metal toxicity, and antimicrobial drugs than those nonmelanized [101417]. Recent studies have shown that in industrial and roadside areas, there is an increase in the proportion of dark melanin-containing fungi, as Cladosporium and Alternaria, which were more resistant to contamination by heavy metals and unsaturated hydrocarbons. Radionuclide contamination also led to a change in fungal communities, with an increased proportion of melanized fungi. For example, melanized fungal species as Cladosporium spp., Alternaria alternataAureobasidium pullulans, and Hormoconis resinae were found to colonize the walls of the damaged reactor at Chernobyl where they are exposed to a high constant radiation field [1819].

The presence of melanin in the cell wall is also correlated with enhanced virulence of parasitic fungi, as Paracoccidioides brasiliensisSporothrix schenckii, and Exophiala (Wangielladermatitidis [172021]. This pigment protects the conidia against digestion by proteases and hydrolases secreted by competitive microorganisms or against bactericidal and fungicidal proteins of animal origin, such as defensins, magainins, or protegrins [22]. This effect was observed for Cryptococcus neoformans, whose in vitro melanization has been associated with resistance against host effector cells, oxidants, microbicidal peptides, and amphotericin B [2325], and in Wangiella (Exophialadermatitidis, when the polyketide synthase gene WdPKS1 associated on melanin production was disrupted, this strain has become more susceptible to voriconazole and amphotericin B [26]. Others studies suggest that melanin contributes to fungal pathogenesis because this pigment alters the host defense response mechanisms, decreases phagocytosis, and reduces the toxicity of microbicidal peptides, reactive oxygen species, and antifungal drugs as well as to play a significant role in fungal cell wall mechanical strength [2728].

Although the molecular structure of fungal melanin remains enigmatic, significant progress has been made in understanding particular aspects of its macro- and microstructure. These advances allow to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of the various biological functions of melanin [22]. Studies have shown that the effect of melanin enhancing the survival of fungi under adverse conditions can be mainly due to its powerful free radical scavenger properties, acting as a “sponge” for other free radicals generated by the fungus in response to environmental stress [202930]. Apart from this scavenging ability, melanin exhibits other biological activities, including thermoregulatory, photoprotective, antimicrobial, antiviral, cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, radioprotective, and immunomodulatory [1317183134].

Since melanin has characteristics of functional materials and bioorganic, a growing number of researchers see this pigment with great interest, taking advantage of their properties for numerous biotechnological applications in cosmetics, pharmaceutical, electronic, and food processing industries [121935].

The purpose of this chapter involves a comprehensive discussion of the research on fungal melanin, including the recently discovered biological activities and the potential use of this pigment for several biotechnological applications. Additionally, we discussed the ways to explore the metabolic potential of the pigment-producing fungi by manipulation of cultivation conditions to improve performance of the process, increasing yields, and reducing cost, for large-scale production.

2. Factors influencing the melanin production

Microbial pigment production is now one of the emerging fields of research due to its potential for various industrial applications, as foodstuff, cosmetics, pharmaceutical, and textile manufacturing processes. However, it is known that for the success of microbial fermentation processes, it is necessary to choose the correct productive culture strain and to determine the appropriate cultivation conditions [4836].

An ideal pigment-producing microorganism should be capable of using a wide range of C and N sources; must be tolerant to pH, temperature, and minerals concentration; and must give reasonable pigments yield. The nontoxic and nonpathogenic natures, coupled with easy separation from cell biomass, are also preferred qualities. The potential of using filamentous fungi as pigment sources is due to their extraordinary metabolic versatility because they can be cultivated over a wide range of temperatures (10–50°C), pH (2–11), salinity (0–34%), and water activity (0.6–1) and under oligotrophic or nutrient-rich conditions. They can grow in different culture systems (submerged and solid), and fermentation protocols have been established for large-scale industrial processes. In addition, these organisms can be genetically modified to increase productivity and quality of the produced pigments [3738].

In order to improve performance and reduce the cost of pigments produced by microbial fermentation, it is essential to identify the nutritional and physical factors that have a greater influence on the cell growth and metabolite biosynthesis [463940].

Several studies have shown that the composition of the growth medium, nature and concentration of carbon and nitrogen sources, minerals, vitamins, temperature, pH, the presence of oxygen and aeration, light, stress, and irradiation, among others, affect the growth and pigment production in fungi and that the manipulation of the culture conditions can result in enhanced pigment production [4147].

Experimental evidences indicate that the growth temperature influences the performance of the pigment production process, but this effect depends on the type of organism. Pseudomonas requires 35–36°C for its growth and pigment production, while in Monascus purpureus, maximum pigment production was observed at 30°C with a reduction of the yield at 37°C [48]. Another study in Monascus sp. J101 reported that the yield of pigment at 25°C was ten times higher than at 30°C, probably due to long growing (120 hours) and lower viscosity of the broth at 25°C compared to 30°C [49]. Studies developed in our laboratory, using a melanin-overproducing mutant (MEL1) from Aspergillus nidulans fungus, showed that the higher production of pigment occurred at incubation temperature of 28°C compared to 37°C [50].

Researches support that the pH of the medium also affects the growth of fungi and type of pigment produced. In species of Monascus, the pH influences the yield and quality of the produced pigment, with the highest red pigment excretion and production at alkaline pH [5152]. Studies on wood-inhabiting fungi indicate that pH of the substrate potentially plays an important role in fungal melanin formation. Fungi Trametes versicolor and Xylaria polymorpha tested on wood substrates produced maximum pigmentation at the pH range 4.5–5.0, except for Scytalidium cuboideum, which produce maximum intensity of red pigment at pH 6 and blue pigment at pH 8 [53]. In our study with the hypermelanized mutant (MEL1) from Anidulans, we observed an increase in the production of pigment when the initial pH of the culture was at 6.8 compared to pH 8.0 [50]. Metabolically, the effects of pH and temperature on fungal pigment production is associated with changes in protein activity, so that the culture conditions may control certain activities such as cell growth, production of primary and secondary metabolites, fermentation, and oxidation processes of the cell [54].

The influence of light on intra- and extracellular pigment production was studied in five pigment-producing fungi: M. purpureusIsaria farinosaEmericella nidulansFusarium verticillioides, and Penicillium purpurogenum [55]. These authors concluded that the cultivation in the total absence of light increased biomass and production of extracellular and intracellular pigments in all fungi. The fungi grown under red light have no effect, and green or yellow light resulted in worsening effect in all the fungi, thus postulating the existence of photoreceptors responsive to dark and light in all the fungi. In a similar study, [56] noted that the production of pigment by Monascus species also was favored when the fungus was grown in the dark.

Some studies report that the pigment synthesis requires proper aeration probably related to the oxygen dependency of some enzymatic reactions responsible for the production of pigment. In Monascus ruber, it was observed that the highest levels of pigments production were obtained at an aeration rate of 0.05 L min−1, which appeared to be clearly sufficient for providing the fungus with oxygen and removing carbon dioxide [57]. In our studies, it was noted that no melanin pigment production takes place during stationary cultivation of hypermelanized mutant (MEL1) from Anidulans, indicating that the formation of this pigment involves the oxidative polymerization of the precursors [50].

Carbon and nitrogen are necessary for cellular metabolism, and these sources are related to the formation of biomass, the type produced pigment, and the yield of the desired substance. These nutrients may regulate the expression of genes of interest and activate important metabolic pathways for the production of pigments [455859]. In general, glucose, an excellent carbon source for growth, interferes with the formation of many secondary metabolites, including pigments. For example, the pigment production by Penicillium sp. was evaluated in the presence of 10 different carbon sources, and the maximum mycelial growth was obtained with fructose, whereas the maximum pigment production was obtained with soluble starch [60]. This result shows that the increased biomass does not necessarily result in increased pigment production because pigments produced by fungi are secondary metabolites whose production usually occurs at the late growth phase (idiophase) of these microorganisms [61]. The pigment production capability of fungal species belonging to the genera PenicilliumAspergillusEpicoccumLecanicillium, and Fusarium was evaluated in different culture media, and the results showed that the complex media, as potato dextrose (PD) and malt extract (ME), favored increased pigment production [47]. According to the authors, these media contain nutrients that can regulate the expression of genes of interest and activate metabolic pathways important for the production of pigments.

Studies have demonstrated that the promoting or repressing effect of a nitrogen source on pigment production is strain dependent. It has been reported that various types of peptone, used as a nitrogen source, are able to promote an increase in the production of pigments in many species of fungi [55596263]. However, M. purpureus was not able to grow in media containing peptone, and a maximum yield of the pigment was achieved when the media were supplemented with yeast extract (1%) and monosodium glutamate (5%) as nitrogen source [41]. In M. ruber, the use of glutamic acid as a nitrogen source showed promising results, either as stimulating the accumulation of extracellular pigments or contributing to increase the efficiency of the pigment production process [45]. The production of high amounts of extracellular melanin by the fungus Gliocephalotrichum simplex was obtained in cultures supplemented with tyrosine (2.5%) and peptone (1%) [64].

The optimization of medium composition is an important strategy to increase pigment production because some sources of carbon and nitrogen can be more easily assimilated and promote higher yields of the desired product. During the optimization experiments to enhance the production of melanin by Auricularia auricula, it was observed that soluble starch, tyrosine, peptone, CaCO3, and K2HPO4 had positive effects, while glucose, (NH4)2SO4, MgSO4, CuSO4, and FeSO4 negatively impacted melanin production [46]. In other study with A. auricula, it was observed that yeast extract, tyrosine, and lactose have significant effects on pigment production and the optimization of medium resulted in 2.14-fold higher melanin concentration than that of the unoptimized medium [65].

Since the substrates for the production of pigment strongly influence the cost of the bioprocess, there is a need to select cheap and efficient substrates to make the process economically viable on the industrial scale. Large amounts of agro-industrial residues generated from diverse economic activities have attracted strong industry interest on the utilization of these residues as inexpensive substrates to support the growth of microorganisms in bioprocesses. This strategy may represent an added value to the industry and also helps in solving pollution problems, reducing or preventing their disposal in the environment [16667].

Various studies have reported the successful utilization of agro-industrial residues for the production of fungal pigments. The use of corn cob powder as a substrate for production of pigments by M. purpureus resulted in greater pigment production [68] than other substrates, as jackfruit seed [69], corn steep liquor [70], and grape waste [71]. In the black yeast Hortaea werneckii, it was observed that rice bran acts as the cheapest source for increased production of melanin by than wheat bran and coconut cake [72]. Wheat bran extract, L-tyrosine, and CuSO4 represent the best combination of medium components to obtain the maximum melanin yield from the fungus A. auricula in submerged culture [73]. A study conducted in our laboratory evaluated the use of corn steep liquor, sugarcane bagasse, and molasses as nutritional source on pigment production by melanin-overproducing mutant (MEL1) from Anidulans. We observed that, in the presence of 0.2% corn steep liquor, an increase in the pigment production occurred, while a high yield of biomass was obtained at a concentration of 2%. The supplementation of medium with molasses and sugar cane bagasse hydrolysate did not have a positive effect on pigment production but promoted an increase in the fungal growth. These results indicate that corn steep liquor contains substances that stimulate the synthesis of pigment and it represents a low-cost fermentation medium for large-scale production of the pigment melanin by MEL1 mutant for future industrial applications [74].

3. Pathways of melanin biosynthesis

Various techniques, including electron paramagnetic resonance [75], X-ray diffraction [76], infrared, ultraviolet and visible spectroscopy [77], and nuclear magnetic resonance [78], have been used to elucidate the melanin structure from different organisms. These studies have shown that fungi can produce different types of melanins by oxidative polymerization of phenolic or indolic compounds [1127].

Melanin in cell walls of Basidiomycotina is derived from phenolic precursors, as glutaminyl-3,4-dihydroxybenzene (GDHB) or catechol. In the parasitic fungus Ustilago maydis, polymerization of catechol dimers with the formation of fibrils of melanin was shown [79]. The precursor of melanin in Agaricus bisporus and other Basidiomycetes is a metabolite of the shikimic acid pathway-γ-glutaminyl-4-hydroxybenzene oxidized under the action of peroxidase and/or phenolase into γ-glutaminyl-3,4-benzoquinone, followed by its polymerization [80]. C. neoformans, a pathogenic basidiomycetous yeast, is known to synthesize DOPA-melanin when o-diphenolic compounds, such as 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine, are present in the culture medium. This fungus may use a wide array of substrates, such as D- and L-dopamine [81], homogentisic acid [82], catecholamines, and other phenolic compounds [83], maximizing its ability to produce melanin. Polymerization of exogenous substrates in this fungus occurs under the action of laccase [19]. However, it is important to emphasize that different properties are observed for melanins derived from different substrates. Comparison of the catecholamines L-dopa, methyldopa, epinephrine, and norepinephrine shows differences in term of color, yield, and thickness of the cell wall melanin layer. It was also observed that the pigments vary in the strength of the stable free radical signal detectable by EPR [1383].

In the Ascomycota fungi, melanin pigment is generally synthesized from the pentaketide pathway in which 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN) is the immediate precursor of the polymer, as described by Bell and Wheeler [11] based on genetic and biochemical evidence obtained from Verticillium dahliae and W. dermatitidis [8485]. Figure 1 shows a general model for fungal dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN)-melanin biosynthesis. In this pathway, the polyketide synthase (PKS) converts malonyl-CoA to 1,3,6,8-tetrahydroxynaphthalene (1,3,6,8-THN), which undergoes several reduction and dehydration reactions to produce scytalone, 1,3,8-trihydroxynaphthalene (THN), and vermelone. A further dehydration step leads to the intermediate 1,8-dihydroxynaphthalene (DHN), which is polymerized to DHN-melanin, possibly by a laccase enzyme [101327].

Figure 1.

The biosynthetic pathway of fungal dihydroxynaphthalene(DHN)-melanin. Scheme adapted from Ref. [13].

However, some species of this class, including Cladosporium resinaeEpicoccum nigrumHendersonula toruloideaEurotium echinulatumHumicola grisea, and Hypoxylon archeri, do not produce this type of pigment [11288688]. In the genus Aspergillus, DHN-melanin has not been identified in some members, as Anidulans and Aniger. Bull [89] identified dopachrome (indole 5,6-quinone 2-carboxylic acid) and melanochrome (indole 5,6-quinone), which are intermediates in the DOPA-melanin pathway, in Anidulans mutants defective in the production of melanin. Other studies confirmed the indolic nature of the melanin produced by Anidulans [1190]. In Anidulans strains, one tyrosinase was identified as the enzyme responsible for the production of melanin pigment, based on its substrate specificity (DOPA substrate) and susceptibility to inhibitors [9192]. In a recent study, our group characterized the pigment produced by Anidulans mutants as DOPA-melanin according to the results obtained with specific inhibitors of DHN- and DOPA-melanin pathways [93].

The production of DOPA-melanin has also been investigated in other fungi such as Neurospora crassa [94], Podospora anserina [95], Anidulans [91], Aoryzae, and Cneoformans [96]. A biosynthesis pathway for fungal DOPA-melanin, proposed by [11], is shown in Figure 2, which strongly resembles the pathway found in mammalian cells, though some of the details may differ.

Figure 2.

The biosynthetic pathway of the dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA)-melanin in fungi. Scheme adapted from Ref. [13].

In this pathway, there are two possible starting molecules, L-dopa and tyrosine. If L-dopa is the precursor molecule, it is oxidized to dopaquinone by laccase. If tyrosine is the precursor, it is first converted to L-dopa and then dopaquinone. The same enzyme, tyrosinase, carries out both steps. Dopaquinone, a highly reactive intermediate, forms leucodopachrome, which is then oxidized to dopachrome. Hydroxylation (and decarboxylation) yields dihydroxyindoles, which can polymerize spontaneously to form DOPA-melanin [102797].

Some fungi have more than one biosynthetic pathway of melanins. For example, Aspergillus fumigatus synthesizes DHN-melanin [98] and also produces a second type of melanin, piomelanins, from homogentisic acid by the tyrosine degradation pathway that protects the cell wall of hyphae from ROS, and gray-green DHN-melanins determine the structural integrity of the cell wall of conidia and their adhesive properties [99]. In Agaricus bisporus, melanins are formed from DOPA by tyrosinase and from γ-glutaminyl-4-hydroxybenzene by peroxidase and phenolase [100].

The extracellular fungal melanin, which is found in culture fluids usually in the form of granules, can be formed from some culture components, which are autoxidized or are oxidized by phenoloxidases released from the fungus during autolysis [101127].

4. Biological activities of melanin

Despite the difference in their origins, melanin pigments have a number of common characteristics that allow them to fulfill their protective function. Several biological functions of melanins are closely associated to their chemical composition and structure. The presence of unpaired electrons in the melanin structure is responsible for various properties, including antioxidant, semiconductor, optical, electronic, and radio- and photoprotective [19].

The effect of melanin enhancing the survival of fungi under adverse conditions is mainly due to its function as an extracellular redox buffer, which can neutralize oxidants generated by the fungus in response to environmental stress [19]. It has been reported that melanin contributes for virulence of C. neoformans, protecting the pathogen against free radicals generated immunologically [29]. In W. dermatitidis and A. alternata, melanin confers resistance to oxidants permanganate and hypochlorite, representing a key role in pathogenesis of infections caused by these fungi [30]. Studies have shown that melanin of zoopathogenic and phytopathogenic fungi is essential for their parasitizing, due to its antioxidant properties [101].

Melanin pigment extracted from several fungal species has shown the ability to scavenge free radicals (reactive nitrogen and oxygen species), becoming a potential natural antioxidant. Melanins produced by Exophiala pisciphila and Aspergillus bridgeri ICTF-201 exhibited a significant DPPH (2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl) radical scavenging activity comparable with that of synthetic melanin, indicating its antioxidant potential [102103]. Melanin produced by Schizophyllum commune showed high free radical scavenging activity in a dose-dependent manner, when the melanin concentration was increased from 10 to 50 μg, the scavenging activity was also increased from 87% to 96%, similar to those obtained using ascorbic acid (standard compound used to measure free radical scavenging activity) [34]. Melanin pigment of Fonsecaea pedrosoi has antioxidant potential by reducing Fe(III) to Fe(II), ensuring the balance of its redox chemical microenvironment and minimizing the effect of oxidation of fundamental structures on fungal growth [104]. Similar results were also observed for melanin from Ophiocordyceps sinensis, which proved to be an effective DPPH radical scavenger and a strong ferrous iron chelator [105]. The chelating power of fungal melanin can be explained by various functional groups present in the structure of this pigment, which provide an array of multiple nonequivalent binding sites for metal ions [1422].

It has been reported that substances acting as antioxidants protect cells from ROS-mediated DNA damage, which can result in mutation and subsequent carcinogenesis. The excess free radicals may attack cellular constituents, as the cell membrane, nucleic acid, protein, enzymes, and other biomolecules, by peroxidation, resulting in the severe damage of cell functions and subsequent serious deleterious effects on the organism [106]. It has been reported that melanin protects melanocytes and keratinocytes from the induction of DNA strand broken by hydrogen peroxide, indicating that this pigment also has an important antioxidant role in the skin [107]. Studies in our laboratory showed that melanin extracted from hyperpigment-productive mutant (MEL1) of A. nidulans has the ability to scavenge the biological oxidants, as HOCl, and may be a promising material in cosmetic formulations to protect the skin against possible oxidative damage [31].

There is experimental evidence that fungal melanin may also act as an anti-aging drug, due to its action in reducing the generation of free radicals, clearing away the free radicals produced in excess, and enhancing the activities of antioxidant enzymes. Studies have shown that one of the major causes of aging is the surplus free radicals produced during the oxidative metabolism in the human body [108]. It was demonstrated that the melanin produced by fungus Lachnum singerianum YM296 significantly inhibited the formation of lipid peroxidation products and slowed down the aging process, elevating the levels of superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, and catalase and decreasing the level of malondialdehyde in mice liver and brain homogenate and serum, suggesting that this pigment could be used as a new anti-aging drug [109].

Researches have also shown that some fungal melanin exhibits immunomodulatory activity through the inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokine production in T lymphocytes and monocytes, as well as fibroblasts and endothelial cells [12110111]. During an inflammatory response, cells of the innate and acquired immune systems release a variety of mediators, such as nitric oxide (NO), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukins (IL), and the reactive nitrogen and oxygen species, which are implicated in the pathogenesis of a number of inflammatory diseases [112]. [113] reported that treatment of macrophages activated in vitro with melanin from the fungus F. pedrosoi inhibited the production of nitric oxide and Th1 cytokines. The study performed by [114] showed that the expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase gene decreased and lower levels of cytokines, such as IL-12 and TNF-α, were observed when activated macrophages were incubated with melanized cells of the Fonsecaea monophora fungus. Our studies demonstrated that melanin extracted from a highly melanized mutant (MEL1) of Anidulans inhibited NO production in LPS-stimulated macrophages, with a maximum response of 82% inhibition, and also showed a dose-dependent inhibitory effect on TNF-α production, reaching an inhibition of 51.86% at a melanin concentration of 100 μg/mL. These results suggest that melanin from Anidulans has potential as an anti-inflammatory agent and may be used in the future for development of new drugs with therapeutic utility [32].

Some studies have proposed that fungal melanin exhibits anti-radiation activity in vivo and in vivo and then could be explored as a probable radioprotector [16115]. Since melanin has a stable free radical population, it is thought that the radioprotective properties of this pigment result from a combination of physical shielding and quenching of cytotoxic free radicals generated by radiation [18]. [116] showed that Lachnum extracellular melanin (LEM404) had strong anti-ultraviolet radiation activity because the survival rates of Escherichia coliStaphylococcus aureus, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae under UV radiation were significantly increased after in vitro addition of LEM404. Compared with the control groups, the antioxidant defense systems, such as superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase activities, were improved significantly in mice of experiment groups, and the reactive oxygen species detected by malondialdehyde content were decreased significantly. These results confirmed that fungal melanin could be used as component of photoprotective creams mainly for its free radical scavenging rather than its light absorption properties. The probable mechanisms of radioprotection by melanin appear to be modulated in pro-survival pathways, immune system, and prevention of oxidative stress. It was reported that melanin isolated from the fungus G. simplex reduced the radiation-induced overproduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-6 and TNF-α), which might help in the recovery from radiation injury by preventing the aggravation of inflammation and oxidative stress [33]. This study confirmed the possible use of melanin-coated nanoparticles for protecting against radiotoxicity during radioimmunotherapy [117].

Recent studies have demonstrated that, in addition to the ability of transferring electrons arising under the action of radiation, melanin also possesses ionic conductivity due to its ability to transform any type of radiation energy not only into heat but also use it for the maintenance of redox processes in cells [118]. It was assumed that melanin pigments, participating in redox reactions, are able to perceive the energy of radiation (UV, visible light, and radiation) and convert it into useful reducing power for metabolic processes. This hypothesis is supported by the discovery of melanized fungi in soils contaminated by radioactive nuclides and areas around the damaged Chernobyl nuclear reactors, which not only survive high radiation levels but also have enhanced growth upon exposure [1619119120]. Owing to its semiconductor property, melanin becomes a promising material for organic bioelectronic devices like transistors, sensors, and batteries [121].

Fungal melanins also exhibit growth inhibitory effect against various microorganisms. The extracellular melanin isolated from S. commune showed significant antibacterial activity against E. coliProteus sp., Klebsiella pneumonia, and Pseudomonas fluorescens and antifungal activity against dermatophytic fungi, Trichophyton simii, and Trubrum [34]. The A. auricula melanin displayed inhibitory activity on biofilm formation of the three bacterial strains, E. coli K-12, Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1, and P. fluorescens P-3, and there was a proportional reduction in biofilm biomass with the increase in pigment concentration. Confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) analyses showed that the three strains formed thick and compact biofilms when grown in the absence of pigment, but the presence of Aauricula melanin resulted in thinner and looser cell aggregations on surfaces instead of normal biofilm architecture. This study suggested that Aauricular melanin inhibits quorum-sensing (QS)-regulated biofilm formation in all strains tested without interfering with their growth [122]. Silver nanoparticles incorporated Yarrowia lipolytica melanin exhibited antimicrobial activity against the pathogen Salmonella paratyphi, and they were also effective at disrupting biofilms on polystyrene as well as glass surfaces [123]. These nanoparticles displayed excellent antifungal properties toward an Aspergillus sp. isolated from a wall surface, suggesting the application of these nanoparticles as effective paint additives. The melanin-silver nanostructures with broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity against food pathogens also have potential applicability in food processing and food packaging industries [124].

The anti-cell proliferation effect of fungal melanin in tumoral cell lines has already been demonstrated. [34] reported that the extracellular melanin produced by the fungus S. commune was effective against human epidermoid larynx carcinoma cell line (HEP-2) in a concentration-dependent manner, indicating its potential application in cancer chemoprevention and chemotherapy.

The evaluation of the effect of fungal melanin on non-tumor cells is also interesting because it may serve as alternative to acute in vivo toxicity testing, avoiding the indiscriminate use of animals. The melanin produced by A. bridgeri was evaluated in vitro cytotoxicity assay using cell lines TE 355.Sk derived from normal human skin fibroblasts and HEK-293 derived from human embryonic kidney cells, and no cytotoxicity was observed against the two cell lines [103]. In our studies, the toxicity of the melanin from A. nidulans was also evaluated due to its potential practical application as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. The results showed that the viability of mouse macrophages remained greater than 90% when these cells were treated with a high melanin concentration (100 μg/mL), indicating that this pigment has low cytotoxicity [32]. We also showed that the toxicity of Anidulans melanin on mouse fibroblast McCoy cell line, after metabolic activation with hepatic S9 microsomal fraction, was much lesser (CI50 = 413.4 ± 3.1 μg/mL) than known cytotoxic agents such as cyclophosphamide (CI50 = 15 ± 1.2 μg/mL). In this study, we demonstrated that this melanin pigment did not induce gene mutations in different strains of Salmonella typhimurium used in the Ames assay. Based on these results, we suggest that the melanin produced by Anidulans does not cause significant damage to the cellular components and might be used in the future for development of new therapeutic drugs [32].

5. Biotechnological applications of melanin

With the current knowledge about physical and chemical properties and the broad spectrum of biological activities, fungal melanins have attracted growing interest for their potential use in the fields of biomedicine, dermocosmetics, nanotechnology, and materials science.

5.1. Bioelectronic applications

In recent years, the electronics industry has been driven to develop materials and components that are cheaper and more environmentally friendly. As melanin has characteristics of functional materials and bioorganic, a growing number of researchers in the fields of materials science and organic electronics see the melanin with great interest, taking advantage of their properties for applications in organic electronic devices. Melanins present interesting optoelectronic properties, such as high optical absorption in the UV-Vis range, good transmission electronic, and ionic conductivity appreciably, pointing this biomaterial as a promising active component in organic electronic devices with low environmental impact [118121125127].

Among the physical properties of melanin, the electrical conductivity is one of the most interesting to investigate in the perspective of technological application. The electrical conductivity properties of this biopolymer are similar to those of amorphous semiconductor solids, and then it can be considered an organic semiconductor, which is largely available and biocompatible and, consequently, cheaper and easier to process with respect to inorganic semiconductors, as silicon germanium. In particular, it can be considered a promising material for sensors and photovoltaic devices, due to broadband spectral absorbance and charge transport properties [128].

The technical literature describes the integration of organic semiconducting polymers as melanin in silicon electronic devices in view of the possibility of achieving multifunctional systems that combine electrical and optical properties of semiconductors, the structural versatility and mechanical characteristics of materials, and processing polymeric [129]. The production of devices based on thin film melanin exhibited electrical conductivity comparable to that of amorphous silicon [130]. In this study, melanin films showed excellent thermal stability and adhere well to glass substrates and silicon, indicating the possibility of using this technique for the production of films from synthetic melanin. Other groups have published various device architectures with applications such as memory (metal-insulator-semiconductor geometries) [131], batteries [132], and biomimetic interfaces [133].

Deposition of homogeneous melanin layers for optoelectronics application is an issue of considerable technological relevance. Synthetic melanin thin films deposited by spray-coating presented features ascribed to an amorphous semiconducting material [134]. They also showed that further improvement of conductivity together with an increased absorption in the NIR region, by doping the synthetic melanin macromolecule, could make this material a good candidate for optical sensing applications. It has been reported that the iron-melanin coating markedly enhances the catalytic activity of the gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) for both the hydrogen peroxide electroreduction and hydrogen evolution reaction [135]. This strategy may be used to improve nanomaterials with potential applications as efficient catalysts and electrocatalysts. Studies have shown that synthetic melanin-like nanoparticles complexed with paramagnetic Fe3+ ions have potential as a highly efficient and nontoxic contrast agent for magnetic resonance imaging instead of Gd3+-based contrast agents, which can cause nephrotoxicity [136].

The optical and electronic properties of melanin have attracted the attention of researchers for the production of continuous thin films from conventional synthetic melanin, which have been used for a number of different device configurations, including chemi-sensors, next-generation solar cells, and a range of other detectors [126130134]. Potential also exists to use melanin films as an effective radiation sensitizer that could greatly improve the spectral range and efficiency of superconducting transition-edge bolometers [137].

The metal chelation properties of melanin offer interesting possibilities for melanin-based metal ion sensing. A piezoelectric sensor system capable of real-time detection of metal ions was constructed by cross-linking melanin onto the gold electrode of quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) and showed high sensitivity and selectivity to metal ions particularly for Hg(II) [138].

Melanin has many other interesting properties, such as ultraviolet absorption, which has been utilized to prepare optical lenses or filters. Studies have shown that it is possible to use melanin as an ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared absorbing pigment in opthalmic devices, protective eyewear, windows, packaging material, umbrellas, canopies, and other similar media suitable for providing protection from radiation [139140]. The incorporation of the melanin in solid plastic films of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA-melanin film system) to be used in conjunction with other plastics to make laminated sheets or lenses, including sunglasses, ski goggles, ophthalmic prescription lenses, helmets, windows, light filters for artificial lighting, and other light filters that protect people from potentially damaging UV and high-energy visible light has also been reported [141].

5.2. Medical applications

Despite its high biocompatibility, the use of melanin as a novel biomaterial in pharmaceutical and biomedical applications reported in literature is still scarce. A study performed with melanin nanoparticles as biocompatible drug nanocarriers, using metronidazole (antibiotic drug), showed that melanin could be a very interesting nanocarrier drug release device because it strongly responds to pH, being a very interesting feature for the treatment of intestine and colon diseases, which would greatly benefit with pH targeting [142]. Another study showed that systemic melanin-covered nanoparticle (MN) administration reduced hematologic toxicity in mice treated with radiation and that these structures provide efficient protection to bone marrow against radiotoxicity during radioimmunotherapy and in some cases external beam radiation therapy, permitting the administration to tumors of significantly higher doses [117].

Melanin has also been used to treat various types of malignant cancer tumors, disorders of the immune system including AIDS, diseases of blood origin and disorders due to the disturbances in cell homeostasis, and complex and hardly curable mental disorders (schizophrenia, epilepsy) involving nervous and other regulatory systems. A study on the use of melanin for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, an amelioration in the monkeys’ overall functional ability and secondary motor manifestations by the administration of an effective amount of melanin in monkeys treated with MPTP (1-Methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,5,6-tetrahydropyridine), a toxin that causes a neurodegenerative disease, was observed. This study demonstrated that toxin-induced Parkinson’s disease could be prevented in the melanin-treated animals because the administered melanin causes chelation or scavenging of toxins, such as MPTP, thus preventing a neurodegenerative disease, such as Parkinson’s disease. The results of this study also showed that melanin administration to aid the recovery of neurons in a mammal having neuron injury suggests that melanin can be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease [143].

Owing to their ability to increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, the melanin is also useful as carriers for other therapeutic agents, which must reach brain tissue to produce their therapeutic responses [144]. Two examples of such therapeutic agents that will cross the blood-brain barrier when linked to melanin are boron and nerve growth factor. According to the same authors, the melanin is also an effective vehicle for the transport of boron to cancerous sites in the body, mainly when the cancerous cells to be treated are located in the brain, because this pigment binds boron very strongly. The melanin can also function as a carrier for nerve growth factor due to the ability to get nerve growth factor across the blood-brain barrier, and this is the major advantage over conventional therapy.

In recent years, efforts have been focused on investigating the potential use of this pigment as active material in tissue repair engineering. Bettinger et al. [145] reported that thin films of melanin were found to enhance Schwann cell growth and neurite extension in rat pheochromocytoma cells (PC12 cells) compared to collagen films in vitro. Melanin films also induced an inflammation response that was comparable to silicone implants in vivo, and the implants were significantly resorbed after 8 weeks. These results showed that melanin thin films have great potential in the reconstruction of tissues, being biodegradable, and possess inflammatory response comparable to silicone. Another study of the biocompatibility of melanin thin films demonstrated that the melanin film effectively supports the growth of undifferentiated stem cells and their differentiation into neuronal precursors and neurons [146]. They related that high-quality melanin thin films display appealing features, such as reversible conductivity by controlled hydration—dehydration steps—excellent biocompatibility with stem cells, and water-resistant adhesion, for bioelectronic applications, e.g., in organic electrochemical transistors (OECTs), which can translate cellular activity into electrical signals [125147]. It has also been reported that melanin thin films possess highly desirable physical and biological properties that make them ideal for organic bioelectronic devices [130].

In cosmetic industry, there are great interests in the melanin, especially to protect against the noxious effects of UV radiation by incorporation in skin photoprotection formulations [35148]. The protective action of melanin is related to its high efficiency to absorb and scatter photons, particularly the higher-energy photons from the UV and blue part of the solar spectrum. Very likely, melanin photoprotection is also due to its ability to quench excited states of certain molecules and scavenge ROS that may be generated in pigmented cells [126]. Development of methods for producing melanin soluble in aqueous cosmetic buffers at physiological pH and temperature may make possible the use of this pigment as ingredients of face and hand creams, lotions, antiaging ointments, or foundation makeups, acting as a screen and antioxidant for the protection against photoinduced skin damages [149]. Other dermocosmetic applications of melanins include the use of the pigment for hair dyeing and the development of novel strategies for hair recoloration [150].

Since melanin has a stable free radical population, it is thought that the radioprotective properties of this pigment result from a combination of physical shielding and quenching of cytotoxic free radicals generated by radiation [18]. Some studies suggest the possible use of melanin-coated nanoparticles in medicine, mainly for protecting patients against the harmful effects of gamma rays during radioimmunotherapy [34151]. Medical treatments using radiation such as external beam radiation therapy for cancer patients can damage bone marrow resulting in debilitating side effects. In experimental models, melanin can successfully shield bone marrow from such side effects. Mice treated with melanin-coated nanoparticles have higher white blood cell and platelet counts than control mice after radiation treatment [117]. It has been reported the use of melanin, a biopolymer with good biocompatibility and biodegradability, intrinsic photo-acoustic properties, binding ability to drugs, and chelating property to radioactive metal ions, as an efficient endogenous nanosystem for imaging-guided chemotherapy [152]. According to the authors, melanin nanoparticles could successfully enter into the tumor and act as an efficient drug-delivery system, thereby greatly increasing the safe utility of the drugs for tumor treatment and significantly lowering the dosage used and its side effects.

A valuable biotechnological approach to the melanin-mediated synthesis of silver nanostructures with broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity has been developed. Silver nanostructures synthesized with melanin derived from Y. lipolytica displayed excellent antifungal activity against an Aspergillus sp. isolated from a wall surface, indicating its potential application as effective paint additives [123]. The melanin-mediated nanostructures with broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity against food pathogens may be considered suitable for many practical food packaging applications because they can effectively inhibit the growth of pathogens and increase the shelf life of packed food products [124].

5.3. Environmental applications

The chemical structure of melanin presents many oxygen-containing groups, including carboxyl, phenolic and alcoholic hydroxyl, carbonyl, and methoxy groups, which have the ability to bind to a broad spectrum of substances [153]. In literature, studies have confirmed that fungal melanin acts as metal chelators, enhancing the biomass-metal interaction and consequently its biosorption capacity [14]. Study conducted by [154] showed that a melanin-rich strain of the fungus Cladosporium cladosporioides biosorbed 2.5- to 4-fold more Ni, Cu, Zn, Cd, and Pb ion than non-melanic Penicillium digitatum. These authors also studied the culture of Ccladosporioides in different growth times and found that a culture grown for two days is not pigmented and has only 34% of Cd adsorption rate that obtained for pigmented biomass after 4 days of growth [155]. Another study reported that melanized fungus Armillaria adsorb high concentrations of cations from the surrounding environment; some ions (Al, Zn, Fe, Cu, and Pb) were 50–100 times more concentrated on rhizomorphs than in soil [156]. The results obtained in our laboratory using a melanin-overproducing mutant (MEL1) from A. nidulans fungus [3193] showed that biosorption capacity for neodymium and lanthanum varied with stage of growth of this mutant; the biomass obtained after 72 hours of growth exhibited a 75% increase compared to the biomass of 48 hours. This result is related to melanin production during growth of the MEL1 mutant, since the biomass 48 hours is slightly pigmented, while the 72 hours biomass is dark due to the increased production of pigment [157]. Therefore, the pigmented biomass of the MEL1 mutant may be considered as a promising biosorbents for removal/recovery of the rare earth elements from wastewater due to the presence of the melanin increase significantly metal complexing capacity, improving the efficiency of biosorption process [157].

Some melanized fungi have shown to be good candidates for bioremediation of contaminated sites, due to the ability of fungal melanin to bind to heavy metals and radionuclides in contaminated sites. Experimental evidence shows that the accumulation of 90Sr by conidia or mycelium by a range of microfungal species is greater in pigmented than in unpigmented species [158]. [159] In a study on the uptake efficiency of the radiocesium (137Cs) and radiocobalt (60Co) in melanized and nonmelanized fungi, it was observed that 60% of both radionuclides were uptaken by melanin of A. alternata and Aspergillus pulverulents. These results can be explained by melanin or other natural pigments present in the cell wall of these fungi that can act as the radiation receptor and/or as an energy transporter for metabolism. Other studies have demonstrated the potential application of the melanized fungi for the removal of radionuclides and heavy metals from aqueous solutions, providing an alternative means to affect cleanup of industrial effluent [16120160164]. It has been reported that fungal melanin arranged in nanoparticles protects against extremely high levels of ionizing radiation and suggests that the protective efficacy of this pigment is a function of its chemical structure, the presence of stable free radical, and spatial arrangement [18]. According to the authors, these nanoshells have the potential use for environmental bioremediation, for example, to prevent the spread of radioactive contamination to ground water because the melanin is expected to encapsulate the radioactive particles and thereby reduce their spread. In this way, melanin nanoshells may be used to contain radiation from radioactive waste and biomedical radioactive materials.

6. Conclusion

Melanin possesses physicochemical properties and biological activities that make it a suitable biomaterial for a wide range of applications in cosmetic, pharmaceutical, electronic, and food processing industries. In addition, this pigment has a considerable interest biotechnological because it can be produced on a large scale with low cost, making its use for future practical applications economically advantageous. However, it is necessary to expand the knowledge about the structure-property-function relationships for the development of melanin-based technology. In the context, we hope that the information in this book will be useful and will encourage a greater number of researches on fungal melanin, which might be useful to deploy innovative and sustainable solutions for human health and the environment.

Continue reading Production of Melanin Pigment by Fungi and Its Biotechnological Applications

Corpora Arenacea a.k.a. Brain Sand or Acervuli

Acervulus morphology. cu: cuticle, co: conidium, cf: conidiophore, ps: pseudo-parenchymatic stroma, hi: hypha.

An acervulus (pl. acervuli) is a small asexual fruiting body that erupts through the epidermis of host plants parasitised by mitosporic fungi of the form order Melanconiales (Deuteromycota, Coelomycetes).

It has the form of a small cushion at the bottom of which short crowded conidiophores are formed. The spores escape through an opening at the top. ~ Content Source


PDF: Comparative histomorphological study of the pineal gland in human and fowl


Comparative histology of pineal calcification.

~ Content Source

The pineal organ (pineal gland, epiphysis cerebri) contains several calcified concretions called “brain sand” or acervuli (corpora arenacea). These concretions are conspicuous with imaging techniques and provide a useful landmark for orientation in the diagnosis of intracranial diseases. Predominantly composed of calcium and magnesium salts, corpora arenacea are numerous in old patients. In smaller number they can be present in children as well. The degree of calcification was associated to various diseases. However, the presence of calcified concretions seems not to reflect a specific pathological state.

Corpora arenacea occur not only in the actual pineal tissue but also in the leptomeninges, in the habenular commissure and in the choroid plexus. Studies with the potassium pyroantimonate (PPA) method on the ultrastructural localization of free calcium ions in the human pineal, revealed the presence of calcium alongside the cell membranes, a finding that underlines the importance of membrane functions in the production of calcium deposits. Intrapineal corpora arenacea are characterized by a surface with globular structures. Meningeal acervuli that are present in the arachnoid cover of the organ, differ in structure from intrapineal ones and show a prominent concentric lamination of alternating dark and light lines. The electron-lucent lines contain more calcium than the dark ones.

There is a correlation between the age of the subject and the number of layers in the largest acervuli. This suggests that the formation of these layers is connected to circannual changes in the calcium level of the organ. The histological organization of the human pineal is basically the same as that of mammalian experimental animals. Pineal concretions present in mammalian animal species are mainly of the meningeal type. Meningeal cells around acervuli contain active cytoplasmic organelles and exhibit alkaline phosphatase reaction in the rat and mink, an indication of a presumable osteoblast-like activity. Using Kossa’s method for the staining of calcium deposits, a higher calcium concentration was detected in the rat pineal than in the surrounding brain tissue. Since in parathyroidectomised rats calcified deposits are larger and more numerous than in controls, the regulation of the production of acervuli by the parathyroid gland has also been postulated. In most of submammalian species, the pineal organs (pineal-, parapineal organ, frontal organ, parietal eye) are photoreceptive and organized similarly to the retina. Acervuli were found in the pineal of some birds.

The pineal organs of lower vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles) exhibit a high calcium content by ultrastructural calcium histochemistry (PPA-method). However, concrements are not formed. The accumulation of Ca2+ seems to depend on the receptor function of the organ. Comparing pineal and retinal photoreceptors in the frog, the photoreceptor outer segments of pinealocytes as well as retinal cones and rods show a large amount of Capyroantimonate deposits. In dark adapted animals calcium ions are present in both sides of the photoreceptor membranes of the outer segment, whereas calcium is shifted extra-cellularly following light adaptation.

Overviewing the data available about the pineal calcification, we can conclude that a multifactorial mechanism may be responsible for the calcification. The pineal of higher vertebrates is not just a simple endocrine gland, rather, its histological organization resembles a folded retina having both hormonal and neural efferentation. Mammalian pinealocytes preserve several characteristics of submammalian receptor cells and accumulate free Ca2+ on their membranes (1). In the thin walled retina and in the similarly organized pineal of submammalian species, the diffusion of extracellular calcium is probably easy and there is a lesser tendency to form concrements.


Comparative Histomorphological Study of the Pineal Gland in Fuman and Fowl

PDF: Comparative histomorphological study of the pineal gland in human and fowl


 

Candida albicans-Endothelial Cell Interactions: a Key Step in the Pathogenesis of Systemic Candidiasis

~ Content Source – PDF Candida albicans-Endothelial Cell Interactions-0332-08

Candida albicans is a normal commensal organism of the oral cavity, gastrointestinal tract, and vagina. Under certain circumstances, C. albicans is capable of causing host damage (or disease) leading to oral, vaginal, cutaneous, or systemic candidiasis. The latter is a serious infection with a high mortality range of 33% to 54% and high morbidity in those who survive. In fact, in recent years, systemic candidal infections have become the fourth most frequent cause of nosocomial bloodstream infections in the United States, giving rise to an enormous associated personal and economic cost. Systemic candidiasis involves the hematogenous spread of C. albicans to multiple organs, including the brain, kidneys, heart, liver, and lungs. Histologically, infection of these organs is characterized by ramifying candidal hyphae and accompanying yeast forms that produce multiple necrotic nodules or abscesses that result in extensive organ damage leading to organ failure. Risk factors for systemic candidiasis include neutropenia, intravascular catheters, hemodialysis, total parenteral nutrition, abdominal surgery, burns, broad-spectrum antibiotics, and corticosteroids. Systemic innate immune responses by phagocytic cells, particularly neutrophils and macrophages, appear to play a critical role in the host defense against systemic Candida infections, and consequently, the majority of candidal infections occur in patients with neutropenia or defects in neutrophil or macrophage function.

MORPHOGENETIC CONVERSIONS AND C. ALBICANS VIRULENCE

C. albicans is a polymorphic organism that is capable of converting between yeast, pseudohyphal, and hyphal forms. The conventional view was that yeast forms were associated with commensal carriage, whereas hyphal forms were associated with disease. This was based on evidence showing that mutant forms of C. albicans that were locked into the yeast form were avirulent. However, this notion was challenged by Braun et al., who found that a tup1-deficient C. albicans strain that was constitutively pseudohyphal was avirulent in a murine model of systemic candidiasis. Although the precise nature of the association between fungal morphogenesis and host invasion is a hotly debated topic, it is now widely accepted that it is the ability to undergo morphogenetic conversion, rather than the morphological form itself, that is the primary determinant of pathogenicity.

The dissemination of fungal organisms in systemic candidiasis starts with their entry into the bloodstream. Given the known risk factors for systemic candidiasis, this is most likely to occur in susceptible individuals by seeding from contaminated intravascular devices, by persorption of C. albicans across the gastrointestinal mucosa, by invasion of epithelially denuded surfaces, or via trauma or surgically related inoculation. Exit from the circulation is thought to occur by adhesion and then penetration into the endothelial lining of blood vessels, except possibly in the kidney, where direct adhesion to exposed extracellular matrix components within glomerular regions may occur. Animal studies suggest that candidal trafficking from the circulation into the tissues occurs rapidly. This review discusses the two critical steps in the migration of C. albicans cells from the circulation into the tissues, which are (i) candidal adhesion to endothelial cells lining the blood vessels and (ii) transmigration of C. albicans across the endothelium into the tissues.

ADHESION OF C. ALBICANS TO ENDOTHELIAL CELLS

During hematogenous dissemination of C. albicans, organisms must first adhere to the endothelial lining of blood vessels before transmigrating across the endothelium to invade the tissues. However, little is known about the mechanisms involved in either process. What is known is complicated further by conflicting evidence concerning the roles played by yeast, pseudohyphal, and hyphal forms of C. albicans and the role of morphogenetic change in the adhesion and transmigration processes.

There are currently two different theories as to how C. albicans adheres to the endothelium. The first theory proposes that cells must first undergo morphogenetic conversion to hyphal forms, which then bind to and damage the endothelial lining of blood vessels before undergoing transmigration from the circulation into the tissues. However, more recent data indicate a second possibility in which morphogenetic change is not necessary for C. albicans invasion of the tissues. In this scenario, yeast cells adhere to the endothelium and then transmigrate into the tissues without undergoing morphogenetic conversion.

The basis of the first theory is morphogenetic conversion of C. albicans to the hyphal form, and there are many lines of evidence to support this hypothesis. These include the observations that germination of C. albicans is necessary for the organism to damage endothelial cells and that substances that inhibit germination block C. albicans-induced endothelial cell damage. Moreover, the time course of candidal germination and germ tube elongation on endothelial cells parallels the time course of endothelial cell damage. Further evidence has come from experiments using genetically engineered forms of C. albicans with filamentation defects. The ability of these organisms to damage and invade endothelial cells is severely impaired compared to that of wild-type parent strains.

Studies showing that germinated C. albicans cells exhibit much greater adherence to epithelial cells than do yeast forms prompted suggestions that C. albicansadherence to endothelial cells might also be hypha dependent. Indeed, there is some evidence to suggest that germinated candidal forms exhibit greater endothelial cell adhesion than do yeast forms of C. albicans. However, it is also possible that yeast forms adhere to the endothelial surface, germinate there, and then penetrate and damage the endothelium during transmigration or that yeast forms adhere and are then endocytosed before germinating within the endothelial cell to cause damage. Taken together, the data suggest that morphogenetic transformation is involved in endothelial cell adhesion but, more particularly, in the subsequent trans-endothelial cell migration.

Conversely, there is also evidence to suggest that morphogenetic change may not be necessary for C. albicans invasion, and this is the basis for the alternative hypothesis. In animal studies in which mice were intravenously inoculated with different mutant strains, Bendel et al. found that cells from a C. albicans mutant strain locked into the yeast form were able to leave the circulation and enter the tissues in greater numbers than those of the wild-type control. However, once cells were in the tissues, the ability of the wild-type strain to undergo hyphal transformation was associated with higher mortality, despite the lower fungal burden in the tissues than that with mutant yeast forms. Further evidence to support this theory has come from in vivo experiments investigating tissue invasion and damage, performed by Saville et al. using a genetically engineered strain of C. albicans (SSY50-B). This study demonstrated that yeast cells are capable of extravasating from blood vessels into the tissues without undergoing morphogenetic change. However, once cells were in the tissues, morphogenetic conversion from yeast to hyphal forms was crucial in causing tissue damage leading to death.

Such observations have led to a hypothesis in which circulating yeast cells bind to the endothelium and then transmigrate into the tissues before undergoing the hyphal transformation that results in tissue damage. In support of this, C. albicans migration from the circulation is very rapid (80 to 90% migration within 5 min), whereas hyphal transformation and endothelial cell damage may take several hours. Furthermore, because of their more compact shape and size, yeast cells may be better adapted for free dissemination within the circulation. In addition, the emergence of C. glabrata and C. parapsilosis as contenders for the second most common cause of disseminated candidiasis, after C. albicans, indicates that the ability to form true hyphae may not be essential for tissue adhesion, invasion, and pathogenesis among Candida species.

CANDIDATE CANDIDA ADHESINS AND THEIR ENDOTHELIAL LIGANDS

The cell wall of C. albicans is composed primarily of an inner structural layer of β1,3- and β1,6-glucans and chitin (a β1,4-linked polymer of N-acetylglucosamine) and a matrix primarily consisting of proteins (mannoproteins) that are heavily glycosylated with mannose-containing polysaccharides, sometimes called mannans. These take the form of short, linear, O-linked mannan side chains that stabilize the protein in the cell wall and large, highly branched N-linked mannans. It is this outermost layer that represents the first point of contact between C. albicans and the endothelium, although not at bud scars, where the components of the inner layers of the cell wall are exposed. Proteins and carbohydrates in these outer layers may have a number of functions, including the ability to act as adhesion molecules, and over recent years several C. albicans cell wall components with the potential to mediate adhesion to the endothelium have been identified. These include proteins with integrin-like properties, Candida agglutinin-like sequence (ALS) gene products, and mannans.

Cell wall protein adhesin candidates. (i) Integrin αMβ2-like adhesin.

Integrin analogues first gained interest in 1991, when Gustafson et al. found that adhesion of yeast forms of C. albicans to cultured monolayers of human endothelial cells was mediated in part by a candidal protein antigenically and structurally related to the leukocyte integrin αMβ2 (Mac-1, CD11b/CD18, CR3, or iC3b receptor) (). They demonstrated the expression of the αMβ2-like molecule on yeast forms of C. albicans and showed that expression was increased by growth in 20 mM d-glucose, as opposed to 20 mM l-glutamine (). Furthermore, the adhesion of yeast forms of C. albicans to endothelial cells was significantly reduced by anti-αMβ2 antibodies or pretreatment of the Candida cells with purified iC3b. Expression of this ligand may be altered at different temperatures and in different morphogenetic forms of C. albicans (), and this may affect the ability of C. albicans to adhere to endothelium (). αMβ2 has many different ligands, including iC3b, fibrinogen, factor X, urokinase receptor, CD14, CD23, CD54 (ICAM-1), CD102 (ICAM-2), CD242 (ICAM-4), heparin, haptoglobin, kininogen, and various microbial proteins (). Of these molecules, only ICAM-1 and -2 are widely expressed on endothelial cells, although CD14 was recently identified on primary, but not passaged, cultures of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (). There are no data on the role of CD14, CD102, or CD242 as a possible endothelial ligand for C. albicans adhesion, but Yokomura et al. () have shown that anti-CD54 monoclonal antibodies can partially inhibit the adhesion of yeast forms of C. albicans to rat pulmonary artery endothelial cells in vitro and significantly prolong the survival of rats injected intravenously with C. albicans. In certain circumstances, it is also possible that αMβ2 ligands such as fibrinogen, heparin and iC3b could in turn bind to endothelial cells and act as an intermediary in Candida-endothelial cell adhesion.

(ii) Integrin αvβ3– and αvβ5-like adhesins.

Two other integrin-like adhesins that may play a role in candidal adhesion to endothelium have been identified. They are homologs of the vitronectin-binding integrins αvβ3 (CD51/CD61) and αvβ5 (). Spreghini et al. () reported the expression of both of these adhesins on yeast forms of C. albicans, while Santoni et al. () showed that transformation to germ tubes was associated with a marked reduction in αvβ5-like integrin expression and an increase in αvβ3-like integrin expression. They also showed that adhesion of C. albicans germ tubes to endothelium was partially inhibited by anti-αvβ3 antibodies or an RGD sequence peptide. Heparin also inhibited germ tube adhesion, and when heparin treatment was combined with either anti-αvβ3 antibody or RGD peptide, the reduction in adhesion was greater still (). More recently, it was shown that a candidal focal adhesion kinase-like protein may be involved in regulating yeast cell adhesion to endothelium via the αvβ3– or αvβ5-like adhesins () or in mediating intracellular signaling following ligand binding, much as focal adhesion kinase proteins are involved in integrin-mediated signaling in mammalian cells (). Like its human counterpart, the candidal αvβ3-like adhesin has been shown to bind to vitronectin (), but other ligands for αvβ3 include CD31 (PECAM-1), fibronectin, fibrinogen, thrombospondin, von Willebrand factor, and RGD sequence peptides (). CD31 is expressed by endothelial cells and could act as a direct ligand for Candida adhesion (), while in certain circumstances it is possible that other ligands could act as a bridge in Candida-endothelial cell binding. Like its human counterpart, the αvβ5-like adhesin on C. albicans also binds vitronectin and RGD peptides (), but αvβ5 lacks a known endothelial cell target ligand and thus may not be involved directly with adherence to the endothelium.

(iii) ALS gene family.

The ALS (agglutinin-like sequence) gene family encodes a group of large glycosylphosphatidylinositol-linked cell surface glycoproteins (). To date, eight ALS genes have been identified, including ALS1 to ALS7 and ALS9, all of which appear to have differing roles in adhesion and transmigration. These genes have gained particular interest recently, and evidence shows that ALS1-transformed Saccharomyces cerevisiae exhibits up to 100-fold greater adherence to endothelial cells (), while Als1-deficient C. albicans hyphae exhibit reduced adhesion to endothelial cells (). Similarly, S. cerevisiae transformed with ALS3 shows increased adhesion (), while Als3-deficient hyphal forms of C. albicans exhibit defective adhesion to endothelial cells (). The loss of Als9 from yeast forms of C. albicans () or the loss of Als4 and decreased expression of Als2 from 1-hour-old germ tubes () also inhibit the adhesion of mutant C. albicans strains to endothelial cells. In contrast, mutational analysis has shown that deletion of ALS5ALS6, or ALS7 results in increased adhesion of yeast forms of C. albicans to endothelial cells, suggesting an antiadhesive role for these proteins (). On the other hand, the protein Als5 has been found to mediate adhesion, along with Als1, when expressed in S. cerevisiae (). To date, the only ligand for the ALSgene products that has been found on endothelial cells is N-cadherin, which binds to Als3 on C. albicans hyphae ().

(iv) C4BP.

The complement protein regulator C4b binding protein (C4BP) is able to bind to both yeast and hyphal forms of C. albicans and is predominantly localized at the tip of the germ tube on hyphae (). This binding is normally regarded as a survival mechanism that inhibits complement activation and the attachment of opsonins to the microbial surface. However, it may also enhance the adhesion of yeast forms of C. albicans to endothelial cells. It is not clear if this enhancement of adhesion by the C4BP coating occurs by activating other Candidaadhesins or by acting as a bridge.

Cell wall carbohydrate adhesin candidates.

The outer cell wall proteins of Candida are heavily glycosylated with N- or O-linked mannosyl residues and have been found to be strongly involved in the recognition of C. albicans by the innate immune system. Indeed, some of these sugar residues provide conserved Candida-associated chemical signatures, known as pathogen-associated molecular patterns, by which the host is able to recognize the presence of the pathogen via host pattern recognition receptors (PRRs). In recent years, it has become apparent that specific host PRRs bind to and recognize specific mannosyl residues on C. albicans. For example, the mannose receptor (MR) recognizes and binds to N-linked mannosyl residues, while Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR-4) binds O-linked mannosyl residues. Similarly, TLR-2 recognizes and binds phospholipomannan, and galectin-3 binds β-mannosides. As these mannosyl residues are part of the structure of the cell wall, they are expressed on all three different morphological forms of C. albicans. However, there is evidence to suggest that there are differences in the recognition of yeast and hyphae by TLR-2 and TLR-4.

Although these PRRs are principally involved in the recognition of C. albicans by components of the host immune response, it is also possible that they are used by C. albicans to adhere to and transmigrate across the endothelial lining of blood vessels. Indeed, several studies have demonstrated the important role of the TLRs in experimental models of disseminated candidiasis. Netea et al. showed that TLR-4-defective C3H/HeJ mice have an increased susceptibility to disseminated candidiasis, and mice deficient in the universal TLR adaptor protein myeloid differentiation factor 88 (MyD88) are extremely susceptible to C. albicans infection. However, it has also been shown that TLR-4-deficient mice are more resistant to disseminated Candida infection. This is also the case for TLR-2-deficient mice, which have also been shown to be more resistant to disseminated candidiasis. However, the majority of the literature on knockout mice and disseminated candidiasis looks at susceptibility to infection and correlates it with the immune response without focusing on receptor expression on endothelial cells. To date, endothelial cells have been shown to express a number of PRRs, including the MR, TLRs, and galectins. The MR was the first receptor on the surfaces of macrophages to be described as a mannan receptor, and it recognizes oligosaccharides that terminate in mannose, fucose, and N-acetylglucosamine. It is also expressed on subtypes of dendritic cells and endothelial cells from certain vascular beds, including human dermal microvascular endothelial cells but not human umbilical vein endothelial cells. So far, 10 TLRs have been found, of which 7 or 8 are expressed on unstimulated endothelial cells. However, upon stimulation with proinflammatory cytokines, all 10 TLRs are expressed. Perhaps most importantly for interactions with C. albicans, endothelial cells express TLR-2 and TLR-4. TLR-4 is expressed constitutively at a higher level than that of TLR-2 by endothelial cells. However, the expression of both is significantly upregulated by stimulation with gamma interferon or bacterial lipopolysaccharide. It is also notable that the expression of TLR-2 on endothelial cells is strongly affected by the effects of flow on the endothelial cells. The galectins are a family of 15 carbohydrate binding proteins with high affinities for β-galactosides, extracellular glycoproteins, and glycolipids. So far, expression of galectin-1, -3, and -9 has been found on cultured endothelial cells, but only galectin-3 has been found to recognize C. albicans. Other PRRs that have been found to be involved in the recognition of C. albicans include DC-SIGN, αMβ2, FcγR, and dectin-1, but so far these receptors have not been found to be expressed on endothelial cells.

With so many different cell wall components having the potential to mediate adhesion of C. albicans to the endothelium, it seems that there could be a number of different mechanisms of adhesion. This may have consequences for the development of therapies aimed at blocking adhesion, because with so many molecules potentially playing a role, blocking only one could simply result in its role being taken up by other molecules. However, to investigate this further, more research is needed on the molecules involved in adhesion of C. albicans to the endothelial lining of blood vessels.

STATIC VERSUS FLOW ADHESION ASSAYS

The majority of the above studies that have directly explored candidal adhesion to endothelium were performed by using static in vitro assays where C. albicans was left in prolonged contact with cultured monolayers of endothelial cells. This is very different from the fleeting interactions C. albicans has with endothelial cells under the conditions of shear stress and flow that occur in blood vessels in vivo. Numerous studies with other cells and microorganisms have shown that static assays do not replicate the dynamic interactions that occur with endothelium under conditions of flow and are poor at elucidating the contributions of specific adhesion molecules. Only a few studies have attempted to study candidal adhesion to synthetic substrata under conditions of flow. These have shown that there are significant differences in the adhesion of Candida to the same substrata when the assays are performed under static and flow conditions. To date, only one study has attempted to examine the adhesion of Candida to endothelium under conditions of flow. Glee et al. found that under shear flow, C. albicans formed rapid, tight adhesions in less than 67 ms. This is much quicker than in static assays and is comparable to the rapid adhesion interactions that occur between leukocytes and endothelial cells. In view of this, it is difficult to fully evaluate the contributions of the mechanisms and adhesion molecules discussed above to the adhesion of C. albicans to endothelium in vivo, as none have been studied under conditions of flow.

TRANSMIGRATION

After adhesion of C. albicans to the endothelial lining of blood vessels, the second step in the migration of C. albicans from the circulation into the tissues is transmigration across the endothelial barrier. This step may involve some of the same molecules used for adhesion but could involve others. Transmigration is hard to research in isolation, which explains why there is little information on specific methods of Candida-endothelial cell transmigration. Even so, there are several proposed mechanisms for Candida transmigration across the endothelium. The first mechanism proposes that endothelial cells endocytose adherent organisms and allow their passage through to the abluminal surface of the endothelial cell layer. It is this mechanism that has gained the most interest and for which a model has evolved to explain how candidal hyphae adhere to and then induce endothelial cells to endocytose them. In this model, C. albicanshyphae bind to N-cadherin and other, as yet unidentified proteins on the endothelial cell surface via the candidal protein Als3. This adhesive interaction induces tyrosine phosphorylation of unidentified intracellular endothelial cell proteins, causing microfilament rearrangement to produce pseudopods, which initiate the endocytosis of adherent hyphal forms of C. albicans. However, endothelial endocytosis of C. albicans is not restricted to hyphal forms, and strains that do not undergo hyphal change and cause little endothelial cell damage are endocytosed to a significant degree. Since the Als3 protein is predominantly expressed on candidal hyphae, this could involve other adhesin-endothelial ligand pairs. There is also evidence that suggests that adherent yeast forms could penetrate endothelial cells, damaging them in the process, without undergoing morphogenetic change allowing them to cross the endothelial barrier. Another proposed mechanism of trans-endothelial cell migration of adherent C. albicans involves the extension of penetrating hyphal processes through the endothelial cells, likely destroying them in the process, much as fungal hyphae ramify through other tissues. Alternatively, a further proposal suggests that adherent C. albicans cells may pass between adjacent endothelial cells as a result of translocation and cyclical switching of adhesion molecules at the junction between endothelial cells, in a manner similar to that of leukocyte and tumor cell trans-endothelial cell migration.

Two alternative methods of transmigration across the endothelium that may not require prior adhesion of C. albicans to the endothelial cell surface have also been proposed. The first mechanism proposes that organisms phagocytosed by leukocytes are transported across the endothelial barrier inside the leukocytes. It is well known that leukocytes are able to cross the endothelium, between adjacent endothelial cells, by diapedesis and cyclical switching of adhesion molecules. Furthermore, there is evidence of C. albicans being found inside circulating leukocytes in systemic candidiasis. However, it is unlikely that this represents the only mechanism for candidal transmigration, since neutropenia is a major risk factor for invasive disease. The second mechanism, which may or may not require prior adhesion, suggests that circulating Candida cells simply pass through endothelial fenestrations between adjacent endothelial cells in vascular beds such as the kidney.

Some of these mechanisms may operate only for the yeast, pseudohyphal, or hyphal form of C. albicans, some may work for all forms, and others may require morphogenetic change for transmigration to occur. As with C. albicans adhesion to endothelial cells, there is clearly much more research required in order to elucidate the precise mechanism by which C. albicans migrates across the endothelium and into the tissues. Additionally, as with leukocyte and tumor cell transmigration, the validity of these mechanisms may become apparent only when transmigration is studied in vivo or in situations where the endothelium is subject to conditions of flow.

CONCLUSION

In summary, the interaction of C. albicans with the endothelial lining of blood vessels and its invasion of the tissues involve a complex series of processes that is further complicated by the role played by the morphogenetic conversion of C. albicans. There is still a large amount of work required to clarify these processes. Furthermore, it is important that this work be performed under conditions that replicate the fleeting contacts of C. albicans with the endothelium and the dynamic conditions of flow that occur in vivo. Nonetheless, understanding these mechanisms may be critical in identifying a means for preventing Candida invasion of the tissues and its lethal sequelae in systemic candidiasis.

Statin Therapy and Decreased Incidence of Positive Candida Cultures Among Patients With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Undergoing Gastrointestinal Surgery

~ Content Source

OBJECTIVE

To assess whether statin therapy decreases the incidence of cultures positive for Candida species among high-risk hospitalized patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM).

PATIENTS AND METHODS

We performed a retrospective cohort study analyzing the records of all patients with type 2 DM who were admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital for lower gastrointestinal tract surgery between January 1, 2001, and May 1, 2008. We defined statin exposure as the filling of at least 1 prescription of statins during the 6 months before hospitalization or during the current hospital stay. The primary outcome was a culture positive for Candida species during hospitalization. Clinical information on a wide range of covariates was collected. Logistic regression analysis was used to adjust for possible confounders.

RESULTS

Of the 1019 patients who were eligible for the study, 493 (48%) were receiving statins. A total of 139 patients (14%) had at least 1 culture positive for Candida species during hospitalization. An adjusted multivariate model based on a backward stepwise elimination procedure showed that statin therapy significantly decreased the incidence of cultures positive for Candida species (odds ratio, 0.60; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.38-0.96; P=.03) with a statistically significant prolonged time to event compared with no statin therapy (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.44-0.88; P=.01). The benefit of statins was more prominent in patients with type 2 DM who had greater comorbidities (Charlson Comorbidity Index ≥2) (adjusted odds ratio, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.27-0.79; P=.01).

CONCLUSION

Among patients with type 2 DM who underwent gastrointestinal surgery, use of statins correlated with a decreased incidence of cultures positive for Candida species.

Is there a role for statins in fungal infections?

Content Source – National Institutes for Health

It has been hypothesized that statins, HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, may be used to treat fungal infections. Here we review data on antifungal properties of statins, effects on the host inflammatory response as well as available clinical evidence. We conclude that: statins exhibit antifungal properties in vitro although at supraphysiological concentrations; statins appear to have anti-inflammatory effects on host cells in vitro; statins have effects on fungal physiology beyond direct growth inhibition; clinical studies are scarce (n = 5), and their design is retrospective and observational, which is associated with a high risk of bias. Given the limited evidence for a beneficial effect of statins in fungal infection, randomized and controlled trials are highly warranted in this field.

Biological consequences of statins in Candida species and possible implications for human health

Content Source – National Institutes for Health

The statins, simvastatin and atorvastatin are the most widely prescribed drugs. Statins lower cholesterol levels through their action on HMG-CoA (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA) reductase, an essential enzyme for the biosynthesis of cholesterol. Fungal HMG-CoA reductases are also inhibited by statins, resulting in reduced levels of ergosterol (the fungal equivalent of cholesterol) and concomitant growth inhibition. This effect occurs in a range of fungal species and possibly affects fungal colonization of people on statin therapy. Furthermore, it may suggest that statins could have a role in new antifungal therapies. Possibly associated with the reduction in ergosterol levels, statins also inhibit respiratory growth. In the yeast, Candida glabrata, passage with statins dramatically increased the frequencies of petite mutants that were devoid of mitochondrial DNA, suggesting that statins caused a defect in the maintenance of mitochondrial DNA. These observations in C. glabrata may provide further insights into side effects of statins in humans undergoing treatment for hypercholesterolaemia. In addition, C. glabrata may be highly useful for the preliminary screening of agents to reduce statin side effects.

Antifungal activity of statins against Aspergillus species

Content Source – National Institutes for Health

The cholesterol-lowering agents known as statins have in vitro activities against human pathogenic fungi, such as Candida species, Cryptococcus neoformans, and Zygomycetes. Synergy between statins and azoles against these fungi has also been reported. We evaluated the in vitro activities of two statins, lovastatin and simvastatin, alone and in combination with azoles and amphotericin B, against clinical isolates of Aspergillus spp. A disk diffusion assay showed that both statins were active against Aspergillus spp. The minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) ranges for lovastatin and simvastatin against Aspergillus spp. were 16 to >256 microg/ml and 4 to >256 microg/ml, respectively. Although both statins were fungicidal for A. fumigatus, the MICs were vastly higher than clinically achievable concentrations. The results of a combined agar dilution-Epsilometer test as well as a disk diffusion assay showed that neither statin had any effect on the in vitro activities of itraconazole, voriconazole, or amphotericin B against Aspergillus spp.

The Borax Conspiracy?

You may not be able to imagine that borax, this humble insecticide and laundry detergent, has the potential of single-handedly bringing down our entire economic system. But you do not need to worry, the danger has been recognized and the necessary steps are already being taken to defuse the situation. I will start with the basics and you will understand what I mean as the story unfolds.

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