Fungal rDNA signatures in coronary atherosclerotic plaques.

Stephan J Ott, Nour Eddine El Mokhtari, Ateequr Rehman, Philip Rosenstiel, Stephan Hellmig, Tanja Kühbacher, Markus Lins, Rüdiger Simon, Stefan Schreiber
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Environmental microbiology
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Bacterial DNA has been found in coronary plaques and it has therefore been concluded that bacteria may play a role as trigger factors in the chronic inflammatory process underlying coronary atherosclerosis. However, the microbial spectrum is complex and it is not known whether microorganisms other than bacteria are involved in coronary disease. Fungal 18S rDNA signatures were systematically investigated in atherosclerotic tissue obtained through catheter-based atherectomy of 38 patients and controls (unaffected coronary arteries) using clone libraries, denaturating gradient gel analysis (DGGE), in situ hybridization and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Fungal DNA was found in 35 of 38 (92.11%) coronary heart disease patients by either polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with universal primers or in situ hybridization analysis (n = 5), but not in any control sample. In a clone library with more than 350 sequenced clones from pooled patient DNA, an overall richness of 19 different fungal phylotypes could be observed. Fungal profiles of coronary heart disease patients obtained by DGGE analysis showed a median richness of fungal species of 5 (range from 2 to 9) with a high interindividual variability (mean similarity 18.83%). For the first time, the presence of fungal components in atherosclerotic plaques has been demonstrated. Coronary atheromatous plaques harbour diverse and variable fungal communities suggesting a polymicrobial contribution to the chronic inflammatory aetiology.