Item Open AccessCandida albicans-enteric viral interactions—the prostaglandin E2 connection and host immune responses(Cell Press, 2023) Mochochoko, Bonang M.; Pohl, Carolina H.; O'Neill, Hester G.The human microbiome comprises trillions of microorganisms residing within different mucosal cavities and across the body surface. The gut microbiota modulates host susceptibility to viral infections in several ways, and microbial interkingdom interactions increase viral infectivity within the gut. Candida albicans, a frequently encountered fungal species in the gut, produces highly structured biofilms and eicosanoids such as prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), which aid in viral protection and replication. These biofilms encompass viruses and provide a shield from antiviral drugs or the immune system. PGE2 is a key modulator of active inflammation with the potential to regulate interferon signaling upon microbial invasion or viral infections. In this review, we raise the perspective of gut interkingdom interactions involving C. albicans and enteric viruses, with a special focus on biofilms, PGE2, and viral replication. Ultimately, we discuss the possible implications of C. albicans-enteric virus associations on host immune responses, particularly the interferon signaling pathway. Item Open AccessSusceptibility tests and predictions of transporter profile in Serratia species(MDPI, 2022) Staats, Gunther J.; McCarlie, Samantha J.; Boucher-Van Jaarsveld, Charlotte E.; Bragg, Robert R.Disinfectants and biosecurity are critically important to control microbial diseases. Resistance to disinfectants compromises sectors such as agriculture and healthcare systems. Currently, efflux pumps are the most common mechanism of antimicrobial resistance. This study aimed to identify the efflux transporters responsible for disinfectant resistance in a multidrug-resistant isolate Serratia sp. HRI compared to a susceptible Serratia sp. type strain. An efflux system profile was generated using the Transporter Automatic Annotation Pipeline (TransAAP) for both isolates. Thereafter, the efflux pump inhibitors, reserpine (RSP) and carbonyl cyanide 3-chlorophenylhydrazone (CCCP) were used to reveal the role of efflux pumps in susceptibility to three disinfectants (Didecyldimethylammonium chloride, HyperCide®, and benzalkonium chloride). Interestingly, the resistant isolate had fewer efflux systems in total compared to the type strain and fewer efflux systems classified as resistance efflux pumps. After the addition of RSP, a significant reduction in resistance capabilities against all three antimicrobials was observed for both isolates. However, CCCP supplementation produced mixed results with some outcomes suggesting the involvement of the Eagle effect. This study provides evidence that efflux pumps are responsible for the disinfectant resistance phenotype of the Serratia species due to the increased susceptibility when efflux pump inhibitors are added. Item Open AccessCandida albicans-enteric viral interactions—the prostaglandin E2 connection and host immune responses(Cell Press, 2023) Mochochoko, Bonang M.; Pohl, Carolina H.; O'Neill, Hester G.The human microbiome comprises trillions of microorganisms residing within different mucosal cavities and across the body surface. The gut microbiota modulates host susceptibility to viral infections in several ways, and microbial interkingdom interactions increase viral infectivity within the gut. Candida albicans, a frequently encountered fungal species in the gut, produces highly structured biofilms and eicosanoids such as prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), which aid in viral protection and replication. These biofilms encompass viruses and provide a shield from antiviral drugs or the immune system. PGE2 is a key modulator of active inflammation with the potential to regulate interferon signaling upon microbial invasion or viral infections. In this review, we raise the perspective of gut interkingdom interactions involving C. albicans and enteric viruses, with a special focus on biofilms, PGE2, and viral replication. Ultimately, we discuss the possible implications of C. albicans-enteric virus associations on host immune responses, particularly the interferon signaling pathway. Item Open AccessRotavirus-mediated prostaglandin E2 production in MA104 cells promotes virus attachment and internalisation, resulting in an increased viral load(Frontiers Media, 2022) Sander, Willem J.; Kemp, Gabre; Hugo, Arnold; Pohl, Carolina H.; O'Neill, Hester G.Rotaviruses are one of the leading causes of severe dehydrating diarrhoea in infants and children under the age of five. Despite the introduction of vaccines, disease burden remains high in sub-Saharan Africa, with no known anti-viral treatments available. During early infection rotavirus attaches to several cellular receptors and enters the cells by either clathrin-dependent or -independent endocytosis. Prostaglandin E2, an abundant eicosanoid, is produced from arachidonic acid during rotavirus infection and inhibition of prostaglandin E2 formation have a deleterious effect on rotavirus infection. In this study, MA104 cells were supplemented with γ-linolenic acid (GLA), a precursor of arachidonic acid. Infection of supplemented cells with rotavirus SA11 led to a depletion in the relative percentages of GLA and arachidonic acid which coincided with an increased production of prostaglandin E2 as monitored by ELISA. Confocal microscopy demonstrated that prostaglandin E2 co-localises with the viroplasm-forming proteins, NSP5 and NSP2. Due to the known association of viroplasms with lipid droplets and the fact that lipid droplets are sites for prostaglandin E2 production, our results indicate a possible role for viroplasms in the production of rotavirus-induced prostaglandin E2. Replication kinetics showed that inhibitors, targeting the biosynthesis of prostaglandin E2, had negative effects on rotavirus yield, especially during the early stages of infection. Using flow cytometry and prostaglandin E2 addback experiments, we show that prostaglandin E2 enhances the attachment and internalisation of rotavirus in MA104 cells indicating a possible role for prostaglandin E2 during clathrin-mediated rotavirus entry. The production of prostaglandin E2 during rotavirus infection could serve as a possible target for anti-viral treatment. Item Open AccessThe possible role of microbial proteases in facilitating SARS-CoV-2 brain invasion(MDPI, 2021) Mjokane, Nozethu; Folorunso, Olufemi S.; Ogundeji, Adepemi O.; Sebolai, Olihile M.SARS-CoV-2 has been shown to display proclivity towards organs bearing angiotensinconverting enzyme (ACE2) expression cells. Of interest herein is the ability of the virus to exhibit neurotropism. However, there is limited information on how this virus invades the brain. With this contribution, we explore how, in the context of a microbial co-infection using a cryptococcal co-infection as a model, SARS-CoV-2 could reach the brain. We theorise that the secretion of proteases by disseminated fungal cells might also activate the S2 domain of the viral spike glycoprotein for membrane fusion with brain endothelial cells leading to endocytosis. Understanding this potential invasion mechanism could lead to better SARS-CoV-2 intervention measures, which may also be applicable in instances of co-infection, especially with protease-secreting pathogens. Item Open AccessGenetic characterisation of South African and Mozambican bovine rotaviruses reveals a typical bovine-like artiodactyl constellation derived through multiple reassortment events(MDPI, 2021) Strydom, Amy; Donato, Celeste M.; Nyaga, Martin M.; Boene, Simone S.; Peenze, Ina; Mogotsi, Milton T.; Joao, Eva D.; Potgieter, A. Christiaan; Seheri, Mapaseka L.; De Deus, Nilsa; O'Neill, Hester G.This study presents whole genomes of seven bovine rotavirus strains from South Africa and Mozambique. Double-stranded RNA, extracted from stool samples without prior adaptation to cell culture, was used to synthesise cDNA using a self-annealing anchor primer ligated to dsRNA and random hexamers. The cDNA was subsequently sequenced using an Illumina MiSeq platform without prior genome amplification. All strains exhibited bovine-like artiodactyl genome constellations (G10/G6-P/P-I2-R2-C2-M2-A3/A11/A13-N2-T6-E2-H3). Phylogenetic analysis revealed relatively homogenous strains, which were mostly related to other South African animal strains or to each other. It appears that these study strains represent a specific bovine rotavirus population endemic to Southern Africa that was derived through multiple reassortment events. While one Mozambican strain, MPT307, was similar to the South African strains, the second strain, MPT93, was divergent from the other study strains, exhibiting evidence of interspecies transmission of the VP1 and NSP2 genes. The data presented in this study not only contribute to the knowledge of circulating African bovine rotavirus strains, but also emphasise the need for expanded surveillance of animal rotaviruses in African countries in order to improve our understanding of rotavirus strain diversity. Item Open AccessBioflocculant produced by Bacillus velezensis and its potential application in brewery wastewater treatment(Scientific Reports, 2022-06) Agunbiade, Mayowa; Oladipo, Babatunde; Ademakinwa, Adedeji Nelson; Awolusi, Oluyemi; Adesiyan, Ibukun Modupe; Oyekola, Oluwaseun; Ololade, Olusola; Ojo, AbidemiThis study was designed to evaluate the potential of bioflocculant producing strains isolated from wastewater sludge. According to the Plackett–Burman design, the response surface revealed glucose, magnesium sulfate, and ammonium sulfate as critical media components of the nutritional source, whereas the central composite design affirmed an optimum concentration of the critical nutritional source as 16.0 g/l (glucose), 3.5 g/l magnesium sulfate heptahydrate (MgSO4.7H2O), and 1.6 g/lammonium sulfate ( (NH4)2SO4), yielding an optimal flocculation activity of 96.8%. Fourier Transformer Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) analysis confirmed the presence of hydroxyl, carboxyl and methoxyl in the structure of the bioflocculant. Additionally, chemical analysis affirmed the presence of mainly a polysaccharide in the main backbone of the purified bioflocculant with no detection of protein. Energy Dispersive X-ray analysis affirmed the presence of chlorine, phosphorous, oxygen and chlorine as representatives of elemental composition. Thermogravimetric (TGA) analysis revealed over 60% weight was retained at a temperature range of 700 °C. The purified bioflocculant remarkably removed chemical oxygen demand, biological oxygen demand and turbidity in brewery wastewater. This study suggested that the bioflocculant might be an alternate candidate for wastewater treatment. Item Open AccessPathogenic potential and control of Chryseobacterium species from clinical, fish, food and environmental sources(MDPI, 2022) Mwanza, Elebert Pauline; Hugo, Arno; Charimba, George; Hugo, Celia J.Chryseobacterium species are isolated and taxonomically evaluated from a wide range of sources. While C. gleum and C. indologenes have been implicated in human disease, the potential pathogenicity of numerous other species have not been investigated. The aims were therefore to evaluate 37 Chryseobacterium species and Elizabethkingia meningoseptica from environmental, food, fish, water and clinical sources for production of haemolysis, growth at 37 °C, and production of virulence enzymes. The control of these strains were investigated by determination of antimicrobial and disinfectant resistance. All the species produced α- or β-haemolysis. In terms of growth at 37 °C and production of virulence enzymes, C. soldanellicola (environmental), C. oranimense (food) and C. koreense (natural mineral water) could be potential human pathogens. Chryseobacterium piscium might be pathogenic to fish. Trimethoprim could be the most effective antimicrobial for the treatment of a Chryseobacterium species infection, while the disinfectants that contain poly-dimethyl ammonium chloride or benzalkonium chloride could be regarded as the most effective for decontamination of surfaces contaminated with Chryseobacterium species. Item Open AccessRecent advances and opportunities in the study of Candida albicans polymicrobial biofilms(Frontiers, 2022) Pohl, Carolina H.It is well known that the opportunistic pathogenic yeast, Candida albicans, can form polymicrobial biofilms with a variety of bacteria, both in vitro and in vivo, and that these polymicrobial biofilms can impact the course and management of disease. Although specific interactions are often described as either synergistic or antagonistic, this may be an oversimplification. Polymicrobial biofilms are complex two-way interacting communities, regulated by inter-domain (inter-kingdom) signaling and various molecular mechanisms. This review article will highlight advances over the last six years (2016-2021) regarding the unique biology of polymicrobial biofilms formed by C. albicans and bacteria, including regulation of their formation. In addition, some of the consequences of these interactions, such as the influence of co-existence on antimicrobial susceptibility and virulence, will be discussed. Since the aim of this knowledge is to inform possible alternative treatment options, recent studies on the discovery of novel anti-biofilm compounds will also be included. Throughout, an attempt will be made to identify ongoing challenges in this area. Item Open AccessCryptococcal protease(s) and the activation of SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein(MDPI, 2022) Mjokane, Nozethu; Maliehe, Maphori; Folorunso, Olufemi S.; Ogundeji, Adepemi O.; Gcilitshana, Onele M. N.; Albertyn, Jacobus; Pohl, Carolina H.; Sebolai, Olihile M.In this contribution, we report on the possibility that cryptococcal protease(s) could activate the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein. The S protein is documented to have a unique four-amino-acid sequence (underlined, SPRRAR|S) at the interface between the S1 and S2 sites, that serves as a cleavage site for the human protease, furin. We compared the biochemical efficiency of cryptococcal protease(s) and furin to mediate the proteolytic cleavage of the S1/S2 site in a fluorogenic peptide. We show that cryptococcal protease(s) processes this site in a manner comparable to the efficiency of furin (p > 0.581). We conclude the paper by discussing the impact of these findings in the context of a SARS-CoV-2 disease manifesting while there is an underlying cryptococcal infection. Item Open AccessThe repurposing of acetylsalicylic acid as a photosensitiser to inactivate the growth of cryptococcal cells(MDPI, 2021) Ogundeji, Adepemi O.; Mjokane, Nozethu; Folorunso, Olufemi S.; Pohl, Carolina H.; Nyaga, Martin M.; Sebolai, Olihile M.Photodynamic treatment (PDT) is often successful when used against aerobic microbes, given their natural susceptibility to oxidative damage. To this end, the current study aimed to explore the photodynamic action of acetylsalicylic acid (ASA; aspirin, which is commonly used to treat non-infectious ailments), when administered to respiring cryptococcal cells. The treatment of cryptococcal cells, i.e., exposure to 0.5 or 1 mM of ASA in the presence of ultraviolet light (UVL) for 10 min, resulted in a significant (p < 0.05) reduction in the growth of tested cells when compared to non-treated (non-Rx) cells, i.e., no ASA and no UVL. The treated cells were also characterised by diseased mitochondria, which is crucial for the survival of respiring cells, as observed by a significant (p < 0.05) loss of mitochondrial membrane potential (DYM) and significant (p < 0.05) accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) when compared to non-Rx cells. Moreover, the photolytic products of acetylsalicylic acid altered the ultrastructural appearance of treated cells as well as limited the expression levels of the capsular-associated gene, CAP64, when compared to non-Rx cells. The results of the study highlight the potential use of ASA as a photosensitiser that is effective for controlling the growth of cryptococcal cells. Potentially, this treatment can also be used as an adjuvant, to complement and support the usage of current anti-microbial agents. Item Open AccessFusarium casha sp. nov. and F. curculicola sp. nov. in the Fusarium fujikuroi species complex isolated from Amaranthus cruentus and three weevil species in South Africa(MDPI, 2021) Vermeulen, Marcele; Rothmann, Lisa A.; Swart, Wijnand J.; Gryzenhout, MariekaTrials are currently being conducted in South Africa to establish Amaranthus cruentus as a new pseudocereal crop. During recent surveys, Fusarium species were associated with weevil damage in A. cruentus fields. Preliminary studies showed that some of these Fusarium species grouped into two distinct clades within the F. fujikuroi species complex. The aim of this study was to characterize these isolates based on the morphology and phylogeny of the translation elongation factor 1 (TEF1 ) gene region, ß-tubulin 2 (ßT) gene region and RNA polymerase II subunit (RPB2), and to determine if these isolates are pathogenic to A. cruentus. Phylogenetic and morphological studies showed that these two clades represent two novel species described here as F. casha and F. curculicola. Both species were shown to have the potential to be pathogenic to A. cruentus during routine greenhouse inoculation tests. While isolations indicate a possible association between these two species and weevils, further research is needed to understand this association and the role of weevils in disease development involving F. casha and F. curculicola in A. cruentus. Item Open AccessRisk factors for fungal co-infections in critically ill COVID-19 patients, with a focus on immunosuppressants(MDPI, 2021) Ezeokoli, Obinna T.; Gcilitshana, Onele; Pohl, Carolina H.Severe cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) managed in the intensive care unit are prone to complications, including secondary infections with opportunistic fungal pathogens. Systemic fungal co-infections in hospitalized COVID-19 patients may exacerbate COVID-19 disease severity, hamper treatment effectiveness and increase mortality. Here, we reiterate the role of fungal co-infections in exacerbating COVID-19 disease severity as well as highlight emerging trends related to fungal disease burden in COVID-19 patients. Furthermore, we provide perspectives on the risk factors for fungal co-infections in hospitalized COVID-19 patients and highlight the potential role of prolonged immunomodulatory treatments in driving fungal co-infections, including COVID-19-associated pulmonary aspergillosis (CAPA), COVID-19-associated candidiasis (CAC) and mucormycosis. We reiterate the need for early diagnosis of suspected COVID-19-associated systemic mycoses in the hospital setting. Item Open AccessDifferential RNA-seq, multi-network analysis and metabolic regulation analysis of Kluyveromyces marxianus reveals a compartmentalised response to xylose(Public Library of Science, 2016) Schabort, Du Toit W. P.; Letebele, Precious K.; Steyn, Laurinda; Kilian, Stephanus G.; Du Preez, James C.We investigated the transcriptomic response of a new strain of the yeast Kluyveromyces marxianus, in glucose and xylose media using RNA-seq. The data were explored in a number of innovative ways using a variety of networks types, pathway maps, enrichment statistics, reporter metabolites and a flux simulation model, revealing different aspects of the genome-scale response in an integrative systems biology manner. The importance of the subcellular localisation in the transcriptomic response is emphasised here, revealing new insights. As was previously reported by others using a rich medium, we show that peroxisomal fatty acid catabolism was dramatically up-regulated in a defined xylose mineral medium without fatty acids, along with mechanisms to activate fatty acids and transfer products of β-oxidation to the mitochondria. Notably, we observed a strong up-regulation of the 2-methylcitrate pathway, supporting capacity for odd-chain fatty acid catabolism. Next we asked which pathways would respond to the additional requirement for NADPH for xylose utilisation, and rationalised the unexpected results using simulations with Flux Balance Analysis. On a fundamental level, we investigated the contribution of the hierarchical and metabolic regulation levels to the regulation of metabolic fluxes. Metabolic regulation analysis suggested that genetic level regulation plays a major role in regulating metabolic fluxes in adaptation to xylose, even for the high capacity reactions, which is unexpected. In addition, isozyme switching may play an important role in re-routing of metabolic fluxes in sub- cellular compartments in K. marxianus.