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Phantom Threads

Fungal protein ZfpA protects the infection from the immune system and antifungal drugs

07 July 2023

Phantom Threads

Aspergillus fumigatus is a common fungus found in the soil. While it's usually harmless, it can infect people with weakened immune systems, killing over half of its victims. This infection depends on hyphae – branching threads of fungal cells used to collect nutrients and spread through the body. A healthy immune system attacks these structures to stop the fungus in its tracks, as do some antifungal drugs. But the molecular details of hyphae growth during A. fumigatus infections are still unclear. Here we see A. fumigatus growing as hyphae. These cells were genetically modified to produce more of a protein called ZfpA and have more branches and stronger cell walls (blue) versus normal cells. Researchers discovered that ZfpA increases the growth of hyphae during A. fumigatus infections, thereby protecting the fungus from our immune systems and antifungal drugs. Learning more about how this protein works could help scientists develop more effective treatments for A. fumigatus.

Written by Henry Stennett

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