I thought it would be nice to write a blog post summarising this paper, so here it goes.
The title of the paper is a bit of a mouthful but essentially the paper is a study of the ways in which Aspergillus fumigatus (a fungus which causes serious lung infections in immunocompromised patients) can adapt and change in the human lung during the course of infection. This adaptation process may help the fungus to survive in the lung, producing an infection that is more difficult to clear/treat.
We used various techniques to study this adaptation process- these techniques assessed the changes in a group of fungal strains on a genomic and phenotypic level (which is the characteristics such as growth or colour). In this study we used a group of fungal strains isolated from the same patient at different time points (these strains were very closely related so we concluded that is was the same strain adapting differently when in the lungs).
Our study showed that:
1. The fungus changes phenotypically.
This can be seen really clearly in the image below. The image shows petri dishes with the fungus growing on it. The top left image is the fungus when it was first isolated from a patient and the bottom right is after 2 years (the images left to right in between are the fungus isolated in between these time points). In the beginning the fungus was growing green, it gradually changed to grow white and in the end it grew green colonies again. Very odd!
2. The fungus changes genetically.
These changes are often mutations (which are various changes in the genetic code of the organism).
The impact of these mutations varies but they can cause:
-increases in concentration of proteins
-changes in the shape of proteins
-changes in the fungal cell wall
We identified >2000 mutations in this group of strains, of which 248 caused amino acid changes (and therefore are more likely to cause protein changes). These changes were in a massive range of genomic locations- a few are shown in the table below- you can see the types of proteins in the description column (sorry its in the wrong orientation!).
We mostly described changes in the fungus in this paper, we didn't correlate any of the changes to specific adaptation processes but its still a nice way of seeing just how much the fungus can change in the human host.
Hopefully this was useful/interesting- thanks for reading!