The yeast Candida albicans and the filamentous fungus Aspergillus fumigatus are by far the most important causes of life-threatening invasive mycoses in Europe. Despite the increasing incidence of these infections, the current diagnosis is still difficult and often too late, and options for therapies are limited. Moreover, A. fumigatus and C. albicans have developed multiple sophisticated, specific and unique pathogenicity mechanisms. Many of these mechanisms are not well understood. Research on these microorganisms therefore will discover and elucidate novel biological principles, including new regulatory and metabolic pathways.

To obtain a comprehensive insight into these medically important fungi, scientists from Jena and Würzburg have initiated the Collaborative Research Center / Transregio 124 Pathogenic fungi and their human host: Networks of Interaction - FungiNet.

The aims of this CRC/Transregio are

(1) to identify pathogenic determinants specific for each fungus,

(2) to investigate the specific roles of epithelial barriers, the mechanisms of the innate immunity and potential contributions of the adaptive immune system for/to the pathogenesis of fungal infections,

(3) to elucidate the complex mechanisms of fungal infections and identify common principles of fungal pathogenesis and

(4) to use this information for new therapeutic approaches.

For a comprehensive description and understanding of complex invasive fungal infections, we believe it is important to apply a systems biological approach as a third dimension added to the pathobiology of the pathogens and the response of the immune system. Systems biology will contribute to uncover the structure and dynamics of molecular and cellular cause-effect relations within these pathogenic interactions.

FungiNet applies three interlinked approaches to fungal pathogenesis:

Aspergillus fumigatus: from environmental microorganism to pathogen

B Bioinformatics / Computational systems biology of infection: creation of a “virtual infection model”

Candida albicans: from commensal to pathogen