The progressive decline in the effectiveness of some azole fungicides in controlling Mycosphaerella graminicola, causal agent of the damaging Septoria leaf blotch disease of wheat, has been correlated with the selection and spread in the pathogen population of specific mutations in the M. graminicola CYP51 (MgCYP51) gene encoding the azole target sterol 14α-demethylase. Recent studies have suggested that the emergence of novel MgCYP51 variants, often harboring substitution S524T, has contributed to a decrease in the efficacy of prothioconazole and epoxiconazole, the two currently most effective azole fungicides against M. graminicola. In this study, we establish which amino acid alterations in novel MgCYP51 variants have the greatest impact on azole sensitivity and protein function. We introduced individual and combinations of identified alterations by site-directed mutagenesis and functionally determined their impact on azole sensitivity by expression in a Saccharomyces cerevisiae mutant YUG37::erg11 carrying a regulatable promoter controlling native CYP51 expression. We demonstrate that substitution S524T confers decreased sensitivity to all azoles when introduced alone or in combination with Y461S. In addition, S524T restores the function in S. cerevisiae of MgCYP51 variants carrying the otherwise lethal alterations Y137F and V136A. Sensitivity tests of S. cerevisiae transformants expressing recently emerged MgCYP51 variants carrying combinations of alterations D134G, V136A, Y461S, and S524T reveal a substantial impact on sensitivity to the currently most widely used azoles, including epoxiconazole and prothioconazole. Finally, we exploit a recently developed model of the MgCYP51 protein to predict that the substantial structural changes caused by these novel combinations reduce azole interactions with critical residues in the binding cavity, thereby causing resistance.
The recent decrease in the sensitivity of the Western European population of the wheat pathogen Mycosphaerella graminicola to azole fungicides has been associated with the emergence and subsequent spread of mutations in the CYP51 gene, encoding the azole target sterol 14α-demethylase. In this study, we have expressed wild-type and mutated M. graminicola CYP51 (MgCYP51) variants in a Saccharomyces cerevisiae mutant carrying a doxycycline-regulatable tetO7-CYC promoter controlling native CYP51 expression. We have shown that the wild-type MgCYP51 protein complements the function of the orthologous protein in S. cerevisiae. Mutant MgCYP51 proteins containing amino acid alterations L50S, Y459D, and Y461H and the two-amino-acid deletion ΔY459/G460, commonly identified in modern M. graminicola populations, have no effect on the capacity of the M. graminicola protein to function in S. cerevisiae. We have also shown that the azole fungicide sensitivities of transformants expressing MgCYP51 variants with these alterations are substantially reduced. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that the I381V substitution, correlated with the recent decline in the effectiveness of azoles, destroys the capacity of MgCYP51 to complement the S. cerevisiae mutant when introduced alone. However, when I381V is combined with changes between residues Y459 and Y461, the function of the M. graminicola protein is partially restored. These findings demonstrate, for the first time for a plant pathogenic fungus, the impacts that naturally occurring CYP51 alterations have on both azole sensitivity and intrinsic protein function. In addition, we also provide functional evidence underlying the order in which CYP51 alterations in the Western European M. graminicola population emerged.
Prothioconazole is one of the most important commercially available demethylase inhibitors (DMIs) used to treat Mycosphaerella graminicola infection of wheat, but specific information regarding its mode of action is not available in the scientific literature. Treatment of wild-type M. graminicola (strain IPO323) with 5 μg of epoxiconazole, tebuconazole, triadimenol, or prothioconazole ml−1 resulted in inhibition of M. graminicola CYP51 (MgCYP51), as evidenced by the accumulation of 14α-methylated sterol substrates (lanosterol and eburicol) and the depletion of ergosterol in azole-treated cells. Successful expression of MgCYP51 in Escherichia coli enabled us to conduct spectrophotometric assays using purified 62-kDa MgCYP51 protein. Antifungal-binding studies revealed that epoxiconazole, tebuconazole, and triadimenol all bound tightly to MgCYP51, producing strong type II difference spectra (peak at 423 to 429 nm and trough at 406 to 409 nm) indicative of the formation of classical low-spin sixth-ligand complexes. Interaction of prothioconazole with MgCYP51 exhibited a novel spectrum with a peak and trough observed at 410 nm and 428 nm, respectively, indicating a different mechanism of inhibition. Prothioconazole bound to MgCYP51 with 840-fold less affinity than epoxiconazole and, unlike epoxiconazole, tebuconazole, and triadimenol, which are noncompetitive inhibitors, prothioconazole was found to be a competitive inhibitor of substrate binding. This represents the first study to validate the effect of prothioconazole on the sterol composition of M. graminicola and the first on the successful heterologous expression of active MgCYP51 protein. The binding affinity studies documented here provide novel insights into the interaction of MgCYP51 with DMIs, especially for the new triazolinethione derivative prothioconazole.
Laboratory strains of Mycosphaerella graminicola with decreased susceptibilities to the azole antifungal agent cyproconazole showed a multidrug resistance phenotype by exhibiting cross-resistance to an unrelated chemical, cycloheximide or rhodamine 6G, or both. Decreased azole susceptibility was found to be associated with either decreased or increased levels of accumulation of cyproconazole. No specific relationship could be observed between azole susceptibility and the expression of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter genes MgAtr1 to MgAtr5 and the sterol P450 14α-demethylase gene, CYP51. ABC transporter MgAtr1 was identified as a determinant in azole susceptibility since heterologous expression of the protein reduced the azole susceptibility of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and disruption of MgAtr1 in one specific M. graminicola laboratory strain with constitutive MgAtr1 overexpression restored the level of susceptibility to cyproconazole to wild-type levels. However, the level of accumulation in the mutant with an MgAtr1 disruption did not revert to the wild-type level. We propose that variations in azole susceptibility in laboratory strains of M. graminicola are mediated by multiple mechanisms.
The fungus Mycosphaerella graminicola has been a pathogen of wheat since host domestication 10,000–12,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent. The wheat-infecting lineage emerged from closely related Mycosphaerella pathogens infecting wild grasses. We use a comparative genomics approach to assess how the process of host specialization affected the genome structure of M. graminicola since divergence from the closest known progenitor species named M. graminicola S1. The genome of S1 was obtained by Illumina sequencing resulting in a 35 Mb draft genome sequence of 32X. Assembled contigs were aligned to the previously sequenced M. graminicola genome. The alignment covered >90% of the non-repetitive portion of the M. graminicola genome with an average divergence of 7%. The sequenced M. graminicola strain is known to harbor thirteen essential chromosomes plus eight dispensable chromosomes. We found evidence that structural rearrangements significantly affected the dispensable chromosomes while the essential chromosomes were syntenic. At the nucleotide level, the essential and dispensable chromosomes have evolved differently. The average synonymous substitution rate in dispensable chromosomes is considerably lower than in essential chromosomes, whereas the average non-synonymous substitution rate is three times higher. Differences in molecular evolution can be related to different transmission and recombination patterns, as well as to differences in effective population sizes of essential and dispensable chromosomes. In order to identify genes potentially involved in host specialization or speciation, we calculated ratios of synonymous and non-synonymous substitution rates in the >9,500 aligned protein coding genes. The genes are generally under strong purifying selection. We identified 43 candidate genes showing evidence of positive selection, one encoding a potential pathogen effector protein. We conclude that divergence of these pathogens was accompanied by structural rearrangements in the small dispensable chromosomes, while footprints of positive selection were present in only a small number of protein coding genes.
The fungal wheat pathogen Mycosphaerella graminicola emerged in the Middle East 11,000 years ago, coinciding with host domestication. We sequenced the genome of the closest known endemic relative of M. graminicola infecting wild grass hosts. A comparative genome analysis allowed us to infer how speciation and host specialization processes have influenced pathogen evolution. The wild grass-adapted pathogen can infect wheat, but M. graminicola shows a significantly higher degree of host specificity and virulence in a detached leaf assay. The genomes of the pathogens are 7% divergent with a high degree of synteny in the 13 essential core chromosomes. However, structural rearrangements have strongly affected eight small dispensable chromosomes. These chromosomes also show altered rates of non-synonymous and synonymous substitutions. We found 43 genes showing evidence of positive selection. As the divergence of species occurred very recently, these genes are likely involved in host specialization or speciation. None of the genes have a known function, although one encodes a signal peptide and is a potential pathogen effector. We conclude that the genomic basis of the rapid emergence of the wheat-specialized pathogen M. graminicola has involved structural changes in the eight dispensable chromosomes and positive selection in a small number of genes.
Many studies exist about the selection phase of fungicide resistance evolution, where a resistant strain is present in a pathogen population and is differentially selected for by the application of fungicides. The emergence phase of the evolution of fungicide resistance - where the resistant strain is not present in the population and has to arise through mutation and subsequently invade the population - has not been studied to date. Here, we derive a model which describes the emergence of resistance in pathogen populations of crops. There are several important examples where a single mutation, affecting binding of a fungicide with the target protein, shifts the sensitivity phenotype of the resistant strain to such an extent that it cannot be controlled effectively (‘qualitative’ or ‘single-step’ resistance). The model was parameterized for this scenario for Mycosphaerella graminicola on winter wheat and used to evaluate the effect of fungicide dose rate on the time to emergence of resistance for a range of mutation probabilities, fitness costs of resistance and sensitivity levels of the resistant strain. We also evaluated the usefulness of mixing two fungicides of differing modes of action for delaying the emergence of resistance. The results suggest that it is unlikely that a resistant strain will already have emerged when a fungicide with a new mode of action is introduced. Hence, ‘anti-emergence’ strategies should be identified and implemented. For all simulated scenarios, the median emergence time of a resistant strain was affected little by changing the dose rate applied, within the range of doses typically used on commercial crops. Mixing a single-site acting fungicide with a multi-site acting fungicide delayed the emergence of resistance to the single-site component. Combining the findings with previous work on the selection phase will enable us to develop more efficient anti-resistance strategies.
Medical drugs known to modulate the activity of human ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter proteins (modulators) were tested for the ability to potentiate the activity of the azole fungicide cyproconazole against in vitro growth of Mycosphaerella graminicola and to control disease development due to this pathogen on wheat seedlings. In vitro modulation of cyproconazole activity could be demonstrated in paper disk bioassays. Some of the active modulators (amitriptyline, flavanone, and phenothiazines) increased the accumulation of cyproconazole in M. graminicola, suggesting that they reversed cyproconazole efflux. However, synergism between cyproconazole and modulators against M. graminicola on wheat seedlings could not be shown. Despite their low in vitro toxicity to M. graminicola, some modulators (amitriptyline, loperamide, and promazine) did show significant intrinsic disease control activity in preventive and curative foliar spray tests with wheat seedlings. The results suggest that these compounds have indirect disease control activity based on modulation of fungal ABC transporters essential for virulence and constitute a new class of disease control agents.
Cryptococcus neoformans is one of the most important causes of life-threatening fungal infections in immunocompromised patients. Lanosterol 14α-demethylase (CYP51) is the target of azole antifungal agents. This study describes, for the first time, the 3-dimensional model of CYP51 from Cryptococcus neoformans (CnCYP51). The model was further refined by energy minimization and molecular-dynamics simulations. The active site of CnCYP51 was well characterized by multiple-copy simultaneous-search calculations, and four functional regions important for rational drug design were identified. The mode of binding of the natural substrate and azole antifungal agents with CnCYP51 was identified by flexible molecular docking. A G484S substitution mechanism for azole resistance in CnCYP51, which might be important for the conformation of the heme environment, is suggested.
Early detection of infection is very important for efficient management of Mycosphaerella graminicola leaf blotch. To monitor and quantify the occurrence of this fungus during the growing season, a diagnostic method based on real-time PCR was developed. Standard and real-time PCR assays were developed using SYBR Green chemistry to quantify M. graminicola in vitro or in wheat samples. Microsatellite dinucleotide specific-primers were designed based on microsatellite repeats of sequences present in the genome of M. graminicola. Specificity was checked by analyzing DNA of 55 M. graminicola isolates obtained from different geographical origins. The method appears to be highly specific for detecting M. graminicola; no fluorescent signals were observed from 14 other closely related taxa. Primer (CT) 7 G amplified a specific amplicon of 570 bp from all M. graminicola isolates. The primers did not amplify DNA extracted from 14 other fungal species. The approximate melting temperature (Tm) of the (CT) 7 G primer was 84.2 °C. The detection limit of the real-time PCR assay with the primer sets (CT) 7 G is 10 fg/25 μL, as compared to 10 pg/25 μL using conventional PCR technology. From symptomless leaves, a PCR fragment could be generated two days after inoculation. Both conventional and real-time PCR could successfully detect the fungus from artificially inoculated wheat leaves. However, real-time PCR appeared much more sensitive than conventional PCR. The developed quantitative real-time PCR method proved to be rapid, sensitive, specific, cost-effective and reliable for the identification and quantification of M. graminicola in wheat.
Septoria tritici blotch; microsatellite; wheat; Dothidiomycete; molecular diagnostics
The management of invasive aspergillosis (IA) has become more complicated due to the emergence of acquired azole resistance in Aspergillus fumigatus, which is associated with treatment failure and a mortality rate of 88%. Treatment with liposomal amphotericin B (L-AmB) may be a useful alternative to improve therapeutic outcome in azole-resistant IA. Four clinical A. fumigatus isolates obtained from patients with proven IA were studied in a nonneutropenic murine model of infection: a wild-type isolate without mutations in the cyp51A gene and three azole-resistant isolates harboring a single mutation at codon 220 (M220I) and tandem repeat mutations (a 34-bp tandem repeat mutation in the promoter region of the cyp51A gene in combination with substitutions at codon L98 [TR34/L98H] and a 46-bp tandem repeat mutation in the promoter region of the cyp51A gene in combination with mutation at codons Y121 and T289 [TR46/Y121F/T289A]), respectively. Female CD-1 mice were infected intravenously 24 h prior to the start of therapy. Groups of 11 mice were treated at days 1, 2, and 5 postchallenge with increasing 4-fold doses of L-AmB ranging from 0.004 to 16 mg/kg/day and observed for 14 days. Survival for all 4 isolates at day 14 was significantly better than that of controls. A dose-response relationship was observed independent of the azole resistance mechanism. The Hill-type model with a variable slope fitted the relationship between the dose and 14-day survival well for all isolates, with R2 values of 0.95 (wild-type), 0.97 (M220I), 0.85 (TR34/L98H), and 0.94 (TR46/Y121F/T289A), respectively. Multiple logistic regression analysis confirmed that there was no significant difference between groups. The results of these experiments indicate that L-AmB was able to prolong survival in vivo in disseminated IA independent of the presence of an azole resistance mechanism in a dose-dependent manner, and therefore, they support a role for L-AmB in the treatment of azole-resistant IA.
The cytochrome P450 sterol 14α-demethylase enzyme (CYP51) is the target of azole antifungals. Azoles block ergosterol synthesis, and thereby fungal growth, by binding in the active-site cavity of the enzyme and ligating the iron atom of the heme cofactor through a nitrogen atom of the azole. Mutations in and around the CYP51 active site have resulted in azole resistance. In this work, homology models of the CYP51 enzymes from Aspergillus fumigatus and Candida albicans were constructed based on the X-ray crystal structure of CYP51 from Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Using these models, binding modes for voriconazole (VOR), fluconazole (FLZ), itraconazole (ITZ), and posaconazole (POS) were predicted from docking calculations. Previous work had demonstrated that mutations in the vicinity of the heme cofactor had a greater impact on the binding of FLZ and VOR than on the binding of POS and ITZ. Our modeling data suggest that the long side chains of POS and ITZ occupy a specific channel within CYP51 and that this additional interaction, which is not available to VOR and FLZ, serves to stabilize the binding of these azoles to the mutated CYP51 proteins. The model also predicts that mutations that were previously shown to specifically impact POS susceptibility in A. fumigatus and C. albicans act by interfering with the binding of the long side chain.
The ascomycete fungus Mycosphaerella graminicola is an important pathogen of wheat that causes Septoria tritici blotch. Despite the serious impact of M. graminicola on wheat production worldwide, knowledge about its molecular biology is limited. The velvet gene, veA, is one of the key regulators of diverse cellular processes, including development and secondary metabolism in many fungi. However, the species analyzed to date are not related to the Dothideomycetes, the largest class of plant-pathogenic fungi, and the function of veA in this group is not known. To test the hypothesis that the velvet gene has similar functions in the Dothideomycetes, a veA-homologous gene, MVE1, was identified and gene deletion mutations (Δmve1) were generated in M. graminicola. All of the MVE1 mutants exhibited consistent pleiotropic phenotypes, indicating the involvement of MVE1 in multiple signaling pathways. Δmve1 strains displayed albino phenotypes with significant reductions in melanin biosynthesis and less production of aerial mycelia on agar plates. In liquid culture, Δmve1 strains showed abnormal hyphal swelling, which was suppressed completely by osmotic stress or lower temperature. In addition, MVE1 gene deletion led to hypersensitivity to shaking, reduced hydrophobicity, and blindness to light-dependent stimulation of aerial mycelium production. However, pathogenicity was not altered in Δmve1 strains. Therefore, the light-signaling pathway associated with MVE1 does not appear to be important for Septoria tritici blotch disease. Our data suggest that the MVE1 gene plays crucial roles in multiple key signaling pathways and is associated with light signaling in M. graminicola.
A range of novel carboxamide fungicides, inhibitors of the succinate dehydrogenase enzyme (SDH, EC 126.96.36.199) is currently being introduced to the crop protection market. The aim of this study was to explore the impact of structurally distinct carboxamides on target site resistance development and to assess possible impact on fitness.
We used a UV mutagenesis approach in Mycosphaerella graminicola, a key pathogen of wheat to compare the nature, frequencies and impact of target mutations towards five subclasses of carboxamides. From this screen we identified 27 amino acid substitutions occurring at 18 different positions on the 3 subunits constituting the ubiquinone binding (Qp) site of the enzyme. The nature of substitutions and cross resistance profiles indicated significant differences in the binding interaction to the enzyme across the different inhibitors. Pharmacophore elucidation followed by docking studies in a tridimensional SDH model allowed us to propose rational hypotheses explaining some of the differential behaviors for the first time. Interestingly all the characterized substitutions had a negative impact on enzyme efficiency, however very low levels of enzyme activity appeared to be sufficient for cell survival. In order to explore the impact of mutations on pathogen fitness in vivo and in planta, homologous recombinants were generated for a selection of mutation types. In vivo, in contrast to previous studies performed in yeast and other organisms, SDH mutations did not result in a major increase of reactive oxygen species levels and did not display any significant fitness penalty. However, a number of Qp site mutations affecting enzyme efficiency were shown to have a biological impact in planta.
Using the combined approaches described here, we have significantly improved our understanding of possible resistance mechanisms to carboxamides and performed preliminary fitness penalty assessment in an economically important plant pathogen years ahead of possible resistance development in the field.
Antifungal susceptibility testing of molds has been standardized in Europe and in the United States. Aspergillus fumigatus strains with resistance to azole drugs have recently been detected and the underlying molecular mechanisms of resistance characterized. Three hundred and ninety-three isolates, including 32 itraconazole-resistant strains, were used to define wild-type populations, epidemiological cutoffs, and cross-resistance between azole drugs. The epidemiological cutoff for itraconazole, voriconazole, and ravuconazole for the wild-type populations of A. fumigatus was ≤1 mg/liter. For posaconazole, the epidemiological cutoff was ≤0.25 mg/liter. Up till now, isolates susceptible to itraconazole have not yet displayed resistance to other azole drugs. Cross-resistance between azole drugs depends on specific mutations in cyp51A. Thus, a substitution of glycine in position 54 of Cyp51A confers cross-resistance between itraconazole and posaconazole. A substitution of methionine at position 220 or a duplication in tandem of a 34-bp fragment in the cyp51A promoter combined with a substitution of leucine at position 98 for histidine confers cross-resistance to all azole drugs tested. The results obtained in this study will help to develop clinical breakpoints for azole drugs and A. fumigatus.
Molecular studies have shown that the majority of azole resistance in Aspergillus fumigatus is associated with amino acid substitutions in the cyp51A gene. To obtain insight into azole resistance mutations, the cyp51A gene of 130 resistant and 76 susceptible A. fumigatus isolates was sequenced. Out of 130 azole-resistant isolates, 105 contained a tandem repeat of 34 bp in the promoter region and a leucine-to-histidine substitution in codon 98 (designated TR/L98H). Additionally, in 12 of these TR/L98H resistant isolates, the mutations S297T and F495I were found, and in 1 isolate, the mutation F495I was found. In eight azole-resistant isolates, known azole resistance mutations were detected in codon G54, G138, or M220. In three azole-susceptible isolates, the mutation E130D, L252L, or S400I was found and in 13 azole-susceptible isolates but also in 1 azole-resistant isolate, the mutations F46Y, G98G, M172V, N248T, D255E, L358L, E427K, and C454C were found. All of the nonsynonymous mutations, apart from the mutations in codons G54, G138, and M220 and L98H, were located at the periphery of the protein, as determined by a structural model of the A. fumigatus Cyp51A protein, and were predicted neither to interact with azole compounds nor to affect structural integrity. Therefore, this wide diversity of mutations in the cyp51A gene in azole-susceptible A. fumigatus isolates is not correlated with azole resistance. Based on the Cyp51A protein homology model, the potential correlation of a mutation to azole resistance can be predicted.
The plant-pathogenic fungus Mycosphaerella graminicola (asexual stage: Septoria tritici) causes septoria tritici blotch, a disease that greatly reduces the yield and quality of wheat. This disease is economically important in most wheat-growing areas worldwide and threatens global food production. Control of the disease has been hampered by a limited understanding of the genetic and biochemical bases of pathogenicity, including mechanisms of infection and of resistance in the host. Unlike most other plant pathogens, M. graminicola has a long latent period during which it evades host defenses. Although this type of stealth pathogenicity occurs commonly in Mycosphaerella and other Dothideomycetes, the largest class of plant-pathogenic fungi, its genetic basis is not known. To address this problem, the genome of M. graminicola was sequenced completely. The finished genome contains 21 chromosomes, eight of which could be lost with no visible effect on the fungus and thus are dispensable. This eight-chromosome dispensome is dynamic in field and progeny isolates, is different from the core genome in gene and repeat content, and appears to have originated by ancient horizontal transfer from an unknown donor. Synteny plots of the M. graminicola chromosomes versus those of the only other sequenced Dothideomycete, Stagonospora nodorum, revealed conservation of gene content but not order or orientation, suggesting a high rate of intra-chromosomal rearrangement in one or both species. This observed “mesosynteny” is very different from synteny seen between other organisms. A surprising feature of the M. graminicola genome compared to other sequenced plant pathogens was that it contained very few genes for enzymes that break down plant cell walls, which was more similar to endophytes than to pathogens. The stealth pathogenesis of M. graminicola probably involves degradation of proteins rather than carbohydrates to evade host defenses during the biotrophic stage of infection and may have evolved from endophytic ancestors.
The plant-pathogenic fungus Mycosphaerella graminicola causes septoria tritici blotch, one of the most economically important diseases of wheat worldwide and a potential threat to global food production. Unlike most other plant pathogens, M. graminicola has a long latent period during which it seems able to evade host defenses, and its genome appears to be unstable with many chromosomes that can change size or be lost during sexual reproduction. To understand its unusual mechanism of pathogenicity and high genomic plasticity, the genome of M. graminicola was sequenced more completely than that of any other filamentous fungus. The finished sequence contains 21 chromosomes, eight of which were different from those in the core genome and appear to have originated by ancient horizontal transfer from an unknown donor. The dispensable chromosomes collectively comprise the dispensome and showed extreme plasticity during sexual reproduction. A surprising feature of the M. graminicola genome was a low number of genes for enzymes that break down plant cell walls; this may represent an evolutionary response to evade detection by plant defense mechanisms. The stealth pathogenicity of M. graminicola may involve degradation of proteins rather than carbohydrates and could have evolved from an endophytic ancestor.
Antifungal susceptibility testing of Aspergillus species has been standardized by both the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI) and the European Committee on Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing (EUCAST). Recent studies suggest the emergence of strains of Aspergillus fumigatus with acquired resistance to azoles. The mechanisms of resistance involve mutations in the cyp51A (sterol demethylase) gene, and patterns of azole cross-resistance have been linked to specific mutations. Studies using the EUCAST broth microdilution (BMD) method have defined wild-type (WT) MIC distributions, epidemiological cutoff values (ECVs), and cross-resistance among the azoles. We tested a collection of 637 clinical isolates of A. fumigatus for which itraconazole MICs were ≤2 μg/ml against posaconazole and voriconazole using the CLSI BMD method. An ECV of ≤1 μg/ml encompassed the WT population of A. fumigatus for itraconazole and voriconazole, whereas an ECV of ≤0.25 μg/ml was established for posaconazole. Our results demonstrate that the WT distribution and ECVs for A. fumigatus and the mold-active triazoles were the same when determined by the CLSI or the EUCAST BMD method. A collection of 43 isolates for which itraconazole MICs fell outside of the ECV were used to assess cross-resistance. Cross-resistance between itraconazole and posaconazole was seen for 53.5% of the isolates, whereas cross-resistance between itraconazole and voriconazole was apparent in only 7% of the isolates. The establishment of the WT MIC distribution and ECVs for the azoles and A. fumigatus will be useful in resistance surveillance and is an important step toward the development of clinical breakpoints.
Azole compounds are the primary therapy for patients with diseases caused by Aspergillus fumigatus. However, prolonged treatment may cause resistance to develop, which is associated with treatment failure. The azole target cyp51A is a hotspot for mutations that confer phenotypic resistance, but in an increasing number of resistant isolates the underlying mechanism remains unknown. Here, we report the discovery of a novel resistance mechanism, caused by a mutation in the CCAAT-binding transcription factor complex subunit HapE. From one patient, four A. fumigatus isolates were serially collected. The last two isolates developed an azole resistant phenotype during prolonged azole therapy. Because the resistant isolates contained a wild type cyp51A gene and the isolates were isogenic, the complete genomes of the last susceptible isolate and the first resistant isolate (taken 17 weeks apart) were sequenced using Illumina technology to identify the resistance conferring mutation. By comparing the genome sequences to each other as well as to two A. fumigatus reference genomes, several potential non-synonymous mutations in protein-coding regions were identified, six of which could be confirmed by PCR and Sanger sequencing. Subsequent sexual crossing experiments showed that resistant progeny always contained a P88L substitution in HapE, while the presence of the other five mutations did not correlate with resistance in the progeny. Cloning the mutated hapE gene into the azole susceptible akuBKU80 strain showed that the HapE P88L mutation by itself could confer the resistant phenotype. This is the first time that whole genome sequencing and sexual crossing strategies have been used to find the genetic basis of a trait of interest in A. fumigatus. The discovery may help understand alternate pathways for azole resistance in A. fumigatus with implications for the molecular diagnosis of resistance and drug discovery.
Plant cell wall degrading enzymes (PCWDEs) of plant pathogens are receiving increasing interest for their potential to trigger plant defense reactions. In an antagonistic co-evolutionary arms race between host and pathogen, PCWDEs could be under strong selection. Here, we tested the hypothesis that PCWDEs in the fungal wheat pathogen Mycosphaerella graminicola have been positively selected by analyzing ratios of non-synonymous and synonymous nucleotide changes in the genes encoding these enzymes. Analyses of five PCWDEs demonstrated that one (β-xylosidase) has been under strong positive selection and experienced an accelerated rate of evolution. In contrast, PCWDEs in the closest relatives of M. graminicola collected from wild grasses did not show evidence for selection or deviation from a molecular clock. Since the genealogical divergence of M. graminicola from these latter species coincided with the onset of agriculture, we hypothesize that the recent domestication of the host plant and/or agricultural practices triggered positive selection in β-xylosidase and that this enzyme played a key role in the emergence of a host-specialized pathogen.
Azoles play an important role in the management of Aspergillus diseases. Azole resistance is an emerging global problem in Aspergillus fumigatus, and may develop through patient therapy. In addition, an environmental route of resistance development has been suggested through exposure to 14α-demethylase inhibitors (DMIs). The main resistance mechanism associated with this putative fungicide-driven route is a combination of alterations in the Cyp51A-gene (TR34/L98H). We investigated if TR34/L98H could have developed through exposure to DMIs.
Methods and Findings
Thirty-one compounds that have been authorized for use as fungicides, herbicides, herbicide safeners and plant growth regulators in the Netherlands between 1970 and 2005, were investigated for cross-resistance to medical triazoles. Furthermore, CYP51-protein homology modeling and molecule alignment studies were performed to identify similarity in molecule structure and docking modes. Five triazole DMIs, propiconazole, bromuconazole, tebuconazole, epoxiconazole and difenoconazole, showed very similar molecule structures to the medical triazoles and adopted similar poses while docking the protein. These DMIs also showed the greatest cross-resistance and, importantly, were authorized for use between 1990 and 1996, directly preceding the recovery of the first clinical TR34/L98H isolate in 1998. Through microsatellite genotyping of TR34/L98H isolates we were able to calculate that the first isolate would have arisen in 1997, confirming the results of the abovementioned experiments. Finally, we performed induction experiments to investigate if TR34/L98H could be induced under laboratory conditions. One isolate evolved from two copies of the tandem repeat to three, indicating that fungicide pressure can indeed result in these genomic changes.
Our findings support a fungicide-driven route of TR34/L98H development in A. fumigatus. Similar molecule structure characteristics of five triazole DMIs and the three medical triazoles appear the underlying mechanism of cross resistance development. Our findings have major implications for the assessment of health risks associated with the use of triazole DMIs.
Nine consecutive isogenic Aspergillus fumigatus isolates cultured from a patient with aspergilloma were investigated for azole resistance. The first cultured isolate showed a wild-type phenotype, but four azole-resistant phenotypes were observed in the subsequent eight isolates. Four mutations were found in the cyp51A gene of these isolates, leading to the substitutions A9T, G54E, P216L, and F219I. Only G54 substitutions were previously proved to be associated with azole resistance. Using a Cyp51A homology model and recombination experiments in which the mutations were introduced into a susceptible isolate, we show that the substitutions at codons P216 and F219 were both associated with resistance to itraconazole and posaconazole. A9T was also present in the wild-type isolate and thus considered a Cyp51A polymorphism. Isolates harboring F219I evolved further into a pan-azole-resistant phenotype, indicating an additional acquisition of a non-Cyp51A-mediated resistance mechanism. Review of the literature showed that in patients who develop azole resistance during therapy, multiple resistance mechanisms commonly emerge. Furthermore, the median time between the last cultured wild-type isolate and the first azole-resistant isolate was 4 months (range, 3 weeks to 23 months), indicating a rapid induction of resistance.
► CYP51s (sterol 14alpha-demethylases) are efficient drug target enzymes. ► CYP51s have a highly rigid substrate binding cavity. ► CYP51 structure-based development of a new inhibitory scaffold is described.
CYP51 (sterol 14α-demethylase) is a cytochrome P450 enzyme essential for sterol biosynthesis and the primary target for clinical and agricultural antifungal azoles. The azoles that are currently in clinical use for systemic fungal infections represent modifications of two basic scaffolds, ketoconazole and fluconazole, all of them being selected based on their antiparasitic activity in cellular experiments. By studying direct inhibition of CYP51 activity across phylogeny including human pathogens Trypanosoma brucei, Trypanosoma cruzi and Leishmania infantum, we identified three novel protozoa-specific inhibitory scaffolds, their inhibitory potency correlating well with antiprotozoan activity. VNI scaffold (carboxamide containing β-phenyl-imidazoles) is the most promising among them: killing T. cruzi amastigotes at low nanomolar concentration, it is also easy to synthesize and nontoxic. Oral administration of VNI (up to 400 mg/kg) neither leads to mortality nor reveals significant side effects up to 48 h post treatment using an experimental mouse model of acute toxicity. Trypanosomatidae CYP51 crystal structures determined in the ligand-free state and complexed with several azole inhibitors as well as a substrate analog revealed high rigidity of the CYP51 substrate binding cavity, which must be essential for the enzyme strict substrate specificity and functional conservation. Explaining profound potency of the VNI inhibitory scaffold, the structures also outline guidelines for its further development. First steps of the VNI scaffold optimization have been undertaken; the results presented here support the notion that CYP51 structure-based rational design of more efficient, pathogen-specific inhibitors represents a highly promising direction.
Sterol 14α-demethylase; CYP51; Inhibition; Crystal structure
Candida glabrata has been often isolated from AIDS patients with oropharyngeal candidiasis treated with azole antifungal agents, especially fluconazole. We recently showed that the ATP-binding-cassette (ABC) transporter gene CgCDR1 was upregulated in C. glabrata clinical isolates resistant to azole antifungal agents (D. Sanglard, F. Ischer, D. Calabrese, P. A. Majcherczyk, and J. Bille, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 43:2753–2765, 1999). Deletion of CgCDR1 in C. glabrata rendered the null mutant hypersusceptible to azole derivatives and showed the importance of this gene in mediating azole resistance. We observed that wild-type C. glabrata exposed to fluconazole in a medium containing the drug at 50 μg/ml developed resistance to this agent and other azoles at a surprisingly high frequency (2 × 10−4 to 4 × 10−4). We show here that this high-frequency azole resistance (HFAR) acquired in vitro was due, at least in part, to the upregulation of CgCDR1. The CgCDR1 deletion mutant DSY1041 could still develop HFAR but in a medium containing fluconazole at 5 μg/ml. In the HFAR strain derived from DSY1041, a distinct ABC transporter gene similar to CgCDR1, called CgCDR2, was upregulated. This gene was slightly expressed in clinical isolates but was upregulated in strains with the HFAR phenotype. Deletion of both CgCDR1 and CgCDR2 suppressed the development of HFAR in a medium containing fluconazole at 5 μg/ml, showing that both genes are important mediators of resistance to azole derivatives in C. glabrata. We also show here that the HFAR phenomenon was linked to the loss of mitochondria in C. glabrata. Mitochondrial loss could be obtained by treatment with ethidium bromide and resulted in acquisition of resistance to azole derivatives without previous exposure to these agents. Azole resistance obtained in vitro by HFAR or by agents stimulating mitochondrial loss was at least linked to the upregulation of both CgCDR1 and CgCDR2.
Evolution of resistance to drugs and pesticides poses a serious threat to human health and agricultural production. CYP51 encodes the target site of azole fungicides, widely used clinically and in agriculture. Azole resistance can evolve due to point mutations or overexpression of CYP51, and previous studies have shown that fungicide-resistant alleles have arisen by de novo mutation. Paralogs CYP51A and CYP51B are found in filamentous ascomycetes, but CYP51A has been lost from multiple lineages. Here, we show that in the barley pathogen Rhynchosporium commune, re-emergence of CYP51A constitutes a novel mechanism for the evolution of resistance to azoles. Pyrosequencing analysis of historical barley leaf samples from a unique long-term experiment from 1892 to 2008 indicates that the majority of the R. commune population lacked CYP51A until 1985, after which the frequency of CYP51A rapidly increased. Functional analysis demonstrates that CYP51A retains the same substrate as CYP51B, but with different transcriptional regulation. Phylogenetic analyses show that the origin of CYP51A far predates azole use, and newly sequenced Rhynchosporium genomes show CYP51A persisting in the R. commune lineage rather than being regained by horizontal gene transfer; therefore, CYP51A re-emergence provides an example of adaptation to novel compounds by selection from standing genetic variation.
standing variation; gene duplication; resistance; fungicides; triazoles; Rhynchosporium
The ascomycete Mycosphaerella graminicola is the causal agent of septoria tritici blotch (STB), one of the most destructive foliar diseases of bread and durum wheat globally, particularly in temperate humid areas. A screening of the French bread wheat cultivars Apache and Balance with 30 M. graminicola isolates revealed a pattern of resistant responses that suggested the presence of new genes for STB resistance. Quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis of a doubled haploid (DH) population with five M. graminicola isolates in the seedling stage identified four QTLs on chromosomes 3AS, 1BS, 6DS and 7DS, and occasionally on 7DL. The QTL on chromosome 6DS flanked by SSR markers Xgpw5176 and Xgpw3087 is a novel QTL that now can be designated as Stb18. The QTLs on chromosomes 3AS and 1BS most likely represent Stb6 and Stb11, respectively, and the QTLs on chromosome 7DS are most probably identical with Stb4 and Stb5. However, the QTL identified on chromosome 7DL is expected to be a new Stb gene that still needs further characterization. Multiple isolates were used and show that not all isolates identify all QTLs, which clearly demonstrates the specificity in the M. graminicola–wheat pathosystem. QTL analyses were performed with various disease parameters. The development of asexual fructifications (pycnidia) in the characteristic necrotic blotches of STB, designated as parameter P, identified the maximum number of QTLs. All other parameters identified fewer but not different QTLs. The segregation of multiple QTLs in the Apache/Balance DH population enabled the identification of DH lines with single QTLs and multiple QTL combinations. Analyses of the marker data of these DH lines clearly demonstrated the positive effect of pyramiding QTLs to broaden resistance spectra as well as epistatic and additive interactions between these QTLs. Phenotyping of the Apache/Balance DH population in the field confirmed the presence of the QTLs that were identified in the seedling stage, but Stb18 was inconsistently expressed and might be particularly effective in young plants. In contrast, an additional QTL for STB resistance was identified on chromosome 2DS that is exclusively and consistently expressed in mature plants over locations and time, but it was also strongly related with earliness, tallness as well as resistance to Fusarium head blight. Although to date no Stb gene has been reported on chromosome 2D, the data provide evidence that this QTL is only indirectly related to STB resistance. This study shows that detailed genetic analysis of contemporary commercial bread wheat cultivars can unveil novel Stb genes that can be readily applied in marker-assisted breeding programs.
Electronic supplementary material
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