Data_Sheet_4_Mitochondrial Fragmentation in Aspergillus fumigatus as Early Marker of Granulocyte Killing

The host's defense against invasive mold infections relies on diverse antimicrobial activities of innate immune cells. However, studying these mechanisms in vitro is complicated by the filamentous nature of such pathogens that typically form long, branched, multinucleated and compartmentalized hyphae. Here we describe a novel method that allows for the visualization and quantification of the antifungal killing activity exerted by human granulocytes against hyphae of the opportunistic pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus. The approach relies on the distinct impact of fungal cell death on the morphology of mitochondria that were visualized with green fluorescent protein (GFP). We show that oxidative stress induces complete fragmentation of the tubular mitochondrial network which correlates with cell death of affected hyphae. Live cell microscopy revealed a similar and non-reversible disruption of the mitochondrial morphology followed by fading of fluorescence in Aspergillus hyphae that were killed by human granulocytes. Quantitative microscopic analysis of fixed samples was subsequently used to estimate the antifungal activity. By utilizing this assay, we demonstrate that lipopolysaccharides as well as human serum significantly increase the killing efficacy of the granulocytes. Our results demonstrate that evaluation of the mitochondrial morphology can be utilized to assess the fungicidal activity of granulocytes against A. fumigatus hyphae.