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Conservation of Mannan Synthesis in Fungi of the Zygomycota and Ascomycota Reveals a Broad Diagnostic Target
AuthorBurnham-Marusich, Amanda R.
Kvam, Alexander J.
Green, Heather R.
Limper, Andrew H.
Kozel, Thomas R.
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Ascomycetes and zygomycetes account for the majority of (i) fungi responsible for cutaneous, subcutaneous, and invasive human fungal infections, (ii) plant fungal pathogens, (iii) fungi that threaten global biodiversity, (iv) fungal agents of agricultural spoilage, and (v) fungi in water-damaged buildings. Rapid recognition of fungal infection (or contamination) enables early treatment (or remediation). A bioinformatics search found homologues of Saccharomyces cerevisiae Mnn9p present in members of the Zygomycota and Ascomycota phyla and absent in members of the Chytridiomycota and Basidiomycota. Mnn9p is a component of the yeast mannan polymerization complex and is necessary for alpha-1,6 mannan production. A monoclonal antibody (2DA6) was produced that was reactive with purified mannans of Mucor, Rhizopus, Aspergillus, Fusarium, and Candida species. Experimentation using a 2DA6 antigen capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and extracts of fungi from the four phyla found agreement between the presence or absence of Mnn9p homologues and production or lack of production of mannan reactive with 2DA6. Studies of cell extracts from yeast mannan mutants identified alpha-1,6 mannan as the epitope recognized by 2DA6. To translate this finding into a point-of-use diagnostic, a 2DA6 lateral flow immunoassay was constructed that detected mannan in (i) extracts of dermatophytes and fungi that produce trauma-related infection and (ii) tissue from plants infected with Grosmannia clavigera or Sclerotium cepivorum. These studies (i) revealed that the conservation of alpha-1,6-linked mannan in fungi of the Zygomycota and Ascomycota can be exploited as a broad diagnostic target and (ii) have provided a means to detect that target in an immunoassay platform that is well suited for clinic or field use. IMPORTANCE A key question asked when faced with an infection, an infestation, or environmental damage is whether it is a fungus. Identification of fungi as the cause of the problem can lead to remediation or treatment. Zygomycetes and ascomycetes account for the vast majority of fungal causes of human, animal, and plant disease, large-scale biodiversity loss, agricultural spoilage, and contamination of water-damaged buildings. These studies revealed the conservation of a common cell wall structural component of zygomycetes and ascomycetes to be a diagnostic target applicable to multiple pathogenic fungi and have leveraged that insight for practical use. Monoclonal antibodies reactive with this pan-fungal structure were produced and used to construct immunoassays (including ELISA and lateral flow assay) for detection of a broad range of pathogenic fungi.