Naegleria fowleri is a free-living amoeba found in freshwater lakes and ponds and is the causative agent of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a rapidly fatal disease of the central nervous system (CNS). PAM occurs when amoebae attach to the nasal epithelium and invade the CNS, a process that involves binding to, and degradation of, extracellular matrix (ECM) components. This degradation is mediated by matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), enzymes that have been described in other pathogenic protozoa, and that have been linked to their increased motility and invasive capability. These enzymes also are upregulated in tumorigenic cells and have been implicated in metastasis of certain tumours. In the present study, in vitro experiments linked MMPs functionally to the degradation of the ECM. Gelatin zymography demonstrated enzyme activity in N. fowleri whole cell lysates, conditioned media and media collected from invasion assays. Western immunoblotting indicated the presence of the metalloproteinases MMP-2 (gelatinase A), MMP-9 (gelatinase B) and MMP-14 [membrane type-1 matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP)]. Highly virulent mouse-passaged amoebae expressed higher levels of MMPs than weakly virulent axenically grown amoebae. The functional relevance of MMPs in media was indicated through the use of the MMP inhibitor, 1,10-phenanthroline. The collective in vitro results suggest that MMPs play a critical role in vivo in invasion of the CNS and that these enzymes may be amenable targets for limiting PAM.
The mortality associated with influenza A virus (IAV) is often due to the development of secondary bacterial infections known as superinfections. The group A streptococcus (GAS) is a relatively uncommon cause of IAV superinfections, but the mortality of these infections is high. We used a murine model to determine whether the surface-localized GAS M protein contributes to the outcome of IAV–GAS superinfections. A comparison between wild-type GAS and an M protein mutant strain (emm3) showed that the M3 protein was essential to virulence. To determine whether the binding, or recruitment, of host proteins to the bacterial surface contributed to virulence, GAS was suspended with BALF collected from mice that had recovered from a sub-lethal infection with IAV. Following intranasal inoculation of naïve mice, the mortality associated with the wild-type strain, but not the emm3 mutant strain, was greater compared to mice inoculated with GAS suspended with either BALF from uninfected mice or PBS. Further analyses showed that both albumin and fibrinogen (Fg) were more abundant in the respiratory tract 8 days after IAV infection, that M3 bound both proteins to the bacterial surface, and that suspension of GAS with either protein increased GAS virulence in the absence of antecedent IAV infection. Overall, the results showed that M3 is essential to the virulence of GAS in an IAV superinfection and suggested that increased abundance of albumin and Fg in the respiratory tract following IAV infection enhanced host susceptibility to secondary GAS infection.
With the growing demand for new antibiotics to combat increasing multi-drug resistance, a family of antimicrobial peptides known as cathelicidins has emerged as potential candidates. Expansions in cathelicidin-encoding genes in marsupials and monotremes are of specific interest as the peptides they encode have evolved to protect immunologically naive young in the harsh conditions of the pouch and burrow. Our previous work demonstrated that some marsupial and monotreme cathelicidins have broad-spectrum antibacterial activity and kill resistant bacteria, but the activity of many cathelicidins is unknown. To investigate associations between peptide antimicrobial activity and physiochemical properties, we tested 15 cathelicidin mature peptides from tammar wallaby, grey short-tailed opossum, platypus and echidna for antimicrobial activity against a range of bacterial and fungal clinical isolates. One opossum cathelicidin ModoCath4, tammar wallaby MaeuCath7 and echidna Taac-CATH1 had broad-spectrum antibacterial activity and killed methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. However, antimicrobial activity was reduced in the presence of serum or whole blood, and non-specific toxicity was observed at high concentrations. The active peptides were highly charged, potentially increasing binding to microbial surfaces, and contained amphipathic helical structures, which may facilitate membrane permeabilisation. Peptide sequence homology, net charge, amphipathicity and alpha helical content did not correlate with antimicrobial activity. However active peptides contained a significantly higher percentage of cationic residues than inactive ones, which may be used to predict active peptides in future work. Along with previous studies, our results indicate that marsupial and monotreme cathelicidins show potential for development as novel therapeutics to combat increasing antimicrobial resistance.