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1.  Adaptive genomic structural variation in the grape powdery mildew pathogen, Erysiphe necator 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):1081.
Powdery mildew, caused by the obligate biotrophic fungus Erysiphe necator, is an economically important disease of grapevines worldwide. Large quantities of fungicides are used for its control, accelerating the incidence of fungicide-resistance. Copy number variations (CNVs) are unbalanced changes in the structure of the genome that have been associated with complex traits. In addition to providing the first description of the large and highly repetitive genome of E. necator, this study describes the impact of genomic structural variation on fungicide resistance in Erysiphe necator.
A shotgun approach was applied to sequence and assemble the genome of five E. necator isolates, and RNA-seq and comparative genomics were used to predict and annotate protein-coding genes. Our results show that the E. necator genome is exceptionally large and repetitive and suggest that transposable elements are responsible for genome expansion. Frequent structural variations were found between isolates and included copy number variation in EnCYP51, the target of the commonly used sterol demethylase inhibitor (DMI) fungicides. A panel of 89 additional E. necator isolates collected from diverse vineyard sites was screened for copy number variation in the EnCYP51 gene and for presence/absence of a point mutation (Y136F) known to result in higher fungicide tolerance. We show that an increase in EnCYP51 copy number is significantly more likely to be detected in isolates collected from fungicide-treated vineyards. Increased EnCYP51 copy numbers were detected with the Y136F allele, suggesting that an increase in copy number becomes advantageous only after the fungicide-tolerant allele is acquired. We also show that EnCYP51 copy number influences expression in a gene-dose dependent manner and correlates with fungal growth in the presence of a DMI fungicide.
Taken together our results show that CNV can be adaptive in the development of resistance to fungicides by providing increasing quantitative protection in a gene-dosage dependent manner. The results of this work not only demonstrate the effectiveness of using genomics to dissect complex traits in organisms with very limited molecular information, but also may have broader implications for understanding genomic dynamics in response to strong selective pressure in other pathogens with similar genome architectures.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-1081) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4298948  PMID: 25487071
Fungal genomics; Copy number variation; Genetic adaptation; Fungicide resistance; Cytochrome p450; CYP51
2.  Molecular Modelling of the Emergence of Azole Resistance in Mycosphaerella graminicola 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e20973.
A structural rationale for recent emergence of azole (imidazole and triazole) resistance associated with CYP51 mutations in the wheat pathogen Mycosphaerella graminicola is presented, attained by homology modelling of the wild type protein and 13 variant proteins. The novel molecular models of M. graminicola CYP51 are based on multiple homologues, individually identified for each variant, rather than using a single structural scaffold, providing a robust structure-function rationale for the binding of azoles, including important fungal specific regions for which no structural information is available. The wild type binding pocket reveals specific residues in close proximity to the bound azole molecules that are subject to alteration in the variants. This implicates azole ligands as important agents exerting selection on specific regions bordering the pocket, that become the focus of genetic mutation events, leading to reduced sensitivity to that group of related compounds. Collectively, the models account for several observed functional effects of specific alterations, including loss of triadimenol sensitivity in the Y137F variant, lower sensitivity to tebuconazole of I381V variants and increased resistance to prochloraz of V136A variants. Deletion of Y459 and G460, which brings about removal of that entire section of beta turn from the vicinity of the binding pocket, confers resistance to tebuconazole and epoxiconazole, but sensitivity to prochloraz in variants carrying a combination of A379G I381V ΔY459/G460. Measurements of binding pocket volume proved useful in assessment of scope for general resistance to azoles by virtue of their accommodation without bonding interaction, particularly when combined with analysis of change in positions of key amino acids. It is possible to predict the likely binding orientation of an azole molecule in any of the variant CYPs, providing potential for an in silico screening system and reliable predictive approach to assess the probability of particular variants exhibiting resistance to particular azole fungicides.
PMCID: PMC3124474  PMID: 21738598
3.  The Cytochrome P450 Lanosterol 14α-Demethylase Gene Is a Demethylation Inhibitor Fungicide Resistance Determinant in Monilinia fructicola Field Isolates from Georgia▿ † 
Resistance in Monilinia fructicola to demethylation inhibitor (DMI) fungicides is beginning to emerge in North America, but its molecular basis is unknown. Two potential genetic determinants of DMI fungicide resistance including the 14α-demethylase gene (MfCYP51) and the ATP-binding cassette transporter gene MfABC1, were investigated in six resistant (DMI-R) and six sensitive (DMI-S) field isolates. No point mutations leading to an amino acid change were found in the MfCYP51 gene. The constitutive expression of the MfCYP51 gene in DMI-R isolates was significantly higher compared to DMI-S isolates. Gene expression was not induced in mycelium of DMI-R or DMI-S isolates treated with 0.3 μg of propiconazole/ml. A slightly higher average MfCYP51 copy number value was detected in DMI-R isolates (1.35) compared to DMI-S isolates (1.13); however, this difference could not be verified in Southern hybridization experiments or explain the up to 11-fold-increased MfCYP51 mRNA levels in DMI-R isolates. Analysis of the upstream nucleotide sequence of the MfCYP51 gene revealed a unique 65-bp repetitive element at base pair position −117 from the translational start site in DMI-R isolates but not in DMI-S isolates. This repetitive element contained a putative promoter and was named Mona. The link between Mona and the DMI resistance phenotype became even more apparent after studying the genetic diversity between the isolates. In contrast to DMI-S isolates, DMI-R isolates contained an MfCYP51 gene of identical nucleotide sequence associated with Mona. Still, DMI-R isolates were not genetically identical as revealed by Microsatellite-PCR analysis. Also, real-time PCR analysis of genomic DNA indicated that the relative copy number of Mona among DMI-S and DMI-R isolates varied, suggesting its potential for mobility. Interestingly, constitutive expression of the MfABC1 gene in DMI-R isolates was slightly lower than that of DMI-S isolates, but expression of the MfABC1 gene in DMI-R isolates was induced in mycelium after propiconazole treatment. Therefore, the MfABC1 gene may play a minor role in DMI fungicide resistance in M. fructicola. Our results strongly suggest that overexpression of the MfCYP51 gene is an important mechanism in conferring DMI fungicide resistance in M. fructicola field isolates from Georgia and that this overexpression is correlated with Mona located upstream of the MfCYP51 gene.
PMCID: PMC2223246  PMID: 18024679
4.  Cross-species discovery of syncretic drug combinations that potentiate the antifungal fluconazole 
The authors screen for compounds that show synergistic antifungal activity when combined with the widely-used fungistatic drug fluconazole. Chemogenomic profiling explains the mode of action of synergistic drugs and allows the prediction of additional drug synergies.
The authors screen for compounds that show synergistic antifungal activity when combined with the widely-used fungistatic drug fluconazole. Chemogenomic profiling explains the mode of action of synergistic drugs and allows the prediction of additional drug synergies.
Chemical screens with a library enriched for known drugs identified a diverse set of 148 compounds that potentiated the action of the antifungal drug fluconazole against the fungal pathogens Cryptococcus neoformans, Cryptococcus gattii and Candida albicans, and the model yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, often in a species-specific manner.Chemogenomic profiles of six confirmed hits in S. cerevisiae revealed different modes of action and enabled the prediction of additional synergistic combinations; three-way synergistic interactions exhibited even stronger synergies at low doses of fluconazole.The synergistic combination of fluconazole and the antidepressant sertraline was active against fluconazole-resistant clinical fungal isolates and in an in vivo model of Cryptococcal infection.
Rising fungal infection rates, especially among immune-suppressed individuals, represent a serious clinical challenge (Gullo, 2009). Cancer, organ transplant and HIV patients, for example, often succumb to opportunistic fungal pathogens. The limited repertoire of approved antifungal agents and emerging drug resistance in the clinic further complicate the effective treatment of systemic fungal infections. At the molecular level, the paucity of fungal-specific essential targets arises from the conserved nature of cellular functions from yeast to humans, as well as from the fact that many essential yeast genes can confer viability at a fraction of wild-type dosage (Yan et al, 2009). Although only ∼1100 of the ∼6000 genes in yeast are essential, almost all genes become essential in specific genetic backgrounds in which another non-essential gene has been deleted or otherwise attenuated, an effect termed synthetic lethality (Tong et al, 2001). Genome-scale surveys suggest that over 200 000 binary synthetic lethal gene combinations dominate the yeast genetic landscape (Costanzo et al, 2010). The genetic buffering phenomenon is also manifest as a plethora of differential chemical–genetic interactions in the presence of sublethal doses of bioactive compounds (Hillenmeyer et al, 2008). These observations frame the difficulty of interdicting network functions in eukaryotic pathogens with single agent therapeutics. At the same time, however, this genetic network organization suggests that judicious combinations of small molecule inhibitors of both essential and non-essential targets may elicit additive or synergistic effects on cell growth (Sharom et al, 2004; Lehar et al, 2008). Unbiased screens for drugs that synergistically enhance a specific bioactive effect, but which are not themselves individually active—termed a syncretic combination—are one means to substantially elaborate chemical space (Keith et al, 2005). Indeed, compounds that enhance the activity of known agents in model yeast and cancer cell line systems have been identified both by focused small molecule library screens and by computational methods (Borisy et al, 2003; Lehar et al, 2007; Nelander et al, 2008; Jansen et al, 2009; Zinner et al, 2009).
To extend the stratagem of chemical synthetic lethality to clinically relevant fungal pathogens, we screened a bioactive library of known drugs for synergistic enhancers of the widely used fungistatic drug fluconazole against the clinically relevant pathogens C. albicans, C. neoformans and C. gattii, as well as the genetically tractable budding yeast S. cerevisiae. Fluconazole is an azole drug that inhibits lanosterol 14α-demethylase, the gene product of ERG11, an essential cytochrome P450 enzyme in the ergosterol biosynthetic pathway (Groll et al, 1998). We identified 148 drugs that potentiate the antifungal action of fluconazole against the four species. These syncretic compounds had not been previously recognized in the clinic as antifungal agents, and many acted in a species-specific manner, often in a potent fungicidal manner.
To understand the mechanisms of synergism, we interrogated six syncretic drugs—trifluoperazine, tamoxifen, clomiphene, sertraline, suloctidil and L-cycloserine—in genome-wide chemogenomic profiles of the S. cerevisiae deletion strain collection (Giaever et al, 1999). These profiles revealed that membrane, vesicle trafficking and lipid biosynthesis pathways are targeted by five of the synergizers, whereas the sphingolipid biosynthesis pathway is targeted by L-cycloserine. Cell biological assays confirmed the predicted membrane disruption effects of the former group of compounds, which may perturb ergosterol metabolism, impair fluconazole export by drug efflux pumps and/or affect active import of fluconazole (Kuo et al, 2010; Mansfield et al, 2010). Based on the integration of chemical–genetic and genetic interaction space, a signature set of deletion strains that are sensitive to the membrane active synergizers correctly predicted additional drug synergies with fluconazole. Similarly, the L-cycloserine chemogenomic profile correctly predicted a synergistic interaction between fluconazole and myriocin, another inhibitor of sphingolipid biosynthesis. The structure of genetic networks suggests that it should be possible to devise higher order drug combinations with even greater selectivity and potency (Sharom et al, 2004). In an initial test of this concept, we found that the combination of a non-synergistic pair drawn from the membrane active and sphingolipid target classes exhibited potent three-way synergism with a low dose of fluconazole. Finally, the combination of sertraline and fluconazole was active in a G. mellonella model of Cryptococcal infection, and was also efficacious against fluconazole-resistant clinical isolates of C. albicans and C. glabrata.
Collectively, these results demonstrate that the combinatorial redeployment of known drugs defines a powerful antifungal strategy and establish a number of potential lead combinations for future clinical assessment.
Resistance to widely used fungistatic drugs, particularly to the ergosterol biosynthesis inhibitor fluconazole, threatens millions of immunocompromised patients susceptible to invasive fungal infections. The dense network structure of synthetic lethal genetic interactions in yeast suggests that combinatorial network inhibition may afford increased drug efficacy and specificity. We carried out systematic screens with a bioactive library enriched for off-patent drugs to identify compounds that potentiate fluconazole action in pathogenic Candida and Cryptococcus strains and the model yeast Saccharomyces. Many compounds exhibited species- or genus-specific synergism, and often improved fluconazole from fungistatic to fungicidal activity. Mode of action studies revealed two classes of synergistic compound, which either perturbed membrane permeability or inhibited sphingolipid biosynthesis. Synergistic drug interactions were rationalized by global genetic interaction networks and, notably, higher order drug combinations further potentiated the activity of fluconazole. Synergistic combinations were active against fluconazole-resistant clinical isolates and an in vivo model of Cryptococcus infection. The systematic repurposing of approved drugs against a spectrum of pathogens thus identifies network vulnerabilities that may be exploited to increase the activity and repertoire of antifungal agents.
PMCID: PMC3159983  PMID: 21694716
antifungal; combination; pathogen; resistance; synergism
5.  Identification and Dissection of a Complex DNA Repair Sensitivity Phenotype in Baker's Yeast 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(7):e1000123.
Complex traits typically involve the contribution of multiple gene variants. In this study, we took advantage of a high-density genotyping analysis of the BY (S288c) and RM strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and of 123 derived spore progeny to identify the genetic loci that underlie a complex DNA repair sensitivity phenotype. This was accomplished by screening hybrid yeast progeny for sensitivity to a variety of DNA damaging agents. Both the BY and RM strains are resistant to the ultraviolet light–mimetic agent 4-nitroquinoline 1-oxide (4-NQO); however, hybrid progeny from a BY×RM cross displayed varying sensitivities to the drug. We mapped a major quantitative trait locus (QTL), RAD5, and identified the exact polymorphism within this locus responsible for 4-NQO sensitivity. By using a backcrossing strategy along with array-assisted bulk segregant analysis, we identified one other locus, MKT1, and a QTL on Chromosome VII that also link to the hybrid 4-NQO–sensitive phenotype but confer more minor effects. This work suggests an additive model for sensitivity to 4-NQO and provides a strategy for mapping both major and minor QTL that confer background-specific phenotypes. It also provides tools for understanding the effect of genetic background on sensitivity to genotoxic agents.
Author Summary
Complex traits often display a range of phenotypes due to the contribution of multiple gene variants. Advances in statistical models, genetic mapping, and DNA genotyping and sequencing have made baker's yeast an excellent system to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL), regions of the genome linked to a quantitative phenotypic trait. We focused on a complex DNA damage sensitivity phenotype in yeast in which parental strains are unaffected but give rise to progeny with a sensitive phenotype. We used a whole-genome approach to isolate defects in DNA repair caused by gene variants in two strains of baker's yeast that display approximately 0.5% sequence divergence. The parental strains are resistant to the ultraviolet light–mimetic agent 4-nitroquinoline 1-oxide (4-NQO); however, a large number of spore progeny displayed varying sensitivities to the drug. Through linkage and bulk segregant analyses we identified one major QTL, RAD5, and two minor QTL linked to sensitivity to 4-NQO, and we provide evidence that sensitivity is due to additive effects involving several QTL. These observations provide a powerful model in which to understand the basis of disease penetrance and how phenotypic variation can be mapped at the gene level.
PMCID: PMC2440805  PMID: 18617998
6.  Reverse Genetics in Candida albicans Predicts ARF Cycling Is Essential for Drug Resistance and Virulence 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(2):e1000753.
Candida albicans, the major fungal pathogen of humans, causes life-threatening infections in immunocompromised individuals. Due to limited available therapy options, this can frequently lead to therapy failure and emergence of drug resistance. To improve current treatment strategies, we have combined comprehensive chemical-genomic screening in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and validation in C. albicans with the goal of identifying compounds that can couple with the fungistatic drug fluconazole to make it fungicidal. Among the genes identified in the yeast screen, we found that only AGE3, which codes for an ADP-ribosylation factor GTPase activating effector protein, abrogates fluconazole tolerance in C. albicans. The age3 mutant was more sensitive to other sterols and cell wall inhibitors, including caspofungin. The deletion of AGE3 in drug resistant clinical isolates and in constitutively active calcineurin signaling mutants restored fluconazole sensitivity. We confirmed chemically the AGE3-dependent drug sensitivity by showing a potent fungicidal synergy between fluconazole and brefeldin A (an inhibitor of the guanine nucleotide exchange factor for ADP ribosylation factors) in wild type C. albicans as well as in drug resistant clinical isolates. Addition of calcineurin inhibitors to the fluconazole/brefeldin A combination only initially improved pathogen killing. Brefeldin A synergized with different drugs in non-albicans Candida species as well as Aspergillus fumigatus. Microarray studies showed that core transcriptional responses to two different drug classes are not significantly altered in age3 mutants. The therapeutic potential of inhibiting ARF activities was demonstrated by in vivo studies that showed age3 mutants are avirulent in wild type mice, attenuated in virulence in immunocompromised mice and that fluconazole treatment was significantly more efficacious when ARF signaling was genetically compromised. This work describes a new, widely conserved, broad-spectrum mechanism involved in fungal drug resistance and virulence and offers a potential route for single or improved combination therapies.
Author Summary
Candida albicans is a fungus that normally resides as part of the microflora in the human gut. Candida species can cause superficial infections like thrush in the healthy human population and life-threatening invasive infections in immunocompromised patients. Fungal infections are often treated with azole drugs, but due to the fungistatic nature of these agents, C. albicans can develop drug resistance, leading to therapy failure. To improve the action of azoles and convert them into fungicidal drugs, we first systematically analyzed the genetic requirements for tolerance to one such azole drug, fluconazole. We show, both genetically and pharmacologically, that components of the ARF cycling machinery are critical in mediating both azole and echinocandin tolerance in C. albicans as well as several other pathogenic Candida species and in the pathogenic mold Aspergillus fumigatus. We highlight the importance of ARF cycling in drug resistance by showing that genetic compromise of ARF functions overrides common drug resistance mechanisms in clinical samples and other key regulators of azole/echinocandin tolerance. We validated the therapeutic potential of ARF cycling in two mouse models and provide evidence that drug treatment is more efficacious when ARF activities are genetically compromised. Our study demonstrates a new mechanism involved in two important aspects of the biology of human fungal pathogens and provides a potential route for improved antifungal therapies.
PMCID: PMC2816695  PMID: 20140196
7.  Aegilops-Secale amphiploids: chromosome categorisation, pollen viability and identification of fungal disease resistance genes 
Journal of Applied Genetics  2011;53(1):37-40.
The aim of this study was to assess the potential breeding value of goatgrass-rye amphiploids, which we are using as a “bridge” in a transfer of Aegilops chromatin (containing, e.g. leaf rust resistance genes) into triticale. We analysed the chromosomal constitution (by genomic in situ hybridisation, GISH), fertility (by pollen viability tests) and the presence of leaf rust and eyespot resistance genes (by molecular and endopeptidase assays) in a collection of 6× and 4× amphiploids originating from crosses between five Aegilops species and Secale cereale. In the five hexaploid amphiploids Aegilops kotschyi × Secale cereale (genome UUSSRR), Ae. variabilis × S. cereale (UUSSRR), Ae. biuncialis × S. cereale (UUMMRR; two lines) and Ae. ovata × S. cereale (UUMMRR), 28 Aegilops chromosomes were recognised, while in the Ae. tauschii × S. cereale amphiploid (4×; DDRR), only 14 such chromosomes were identified. In the materials, the number of rye chromosomes varied from 14 to 16. In one line of Ae. ovata × S. cereale, the U-R translocation was found. Pollen viability varied from 24.4 to 75.4%. The leaf rust resistance genes Lr22, Lr39 and Lr41 were identified in Ae. tauschii and the 4× amphiploid Ae. tauschii × S. cereale. For the first time, the leaf rust resistance gene Lr37 was found in Ae. kotschyi, Ae. ovata, Ae. biuncialis and amphiploids derived from those parental species. No eyespot resistance gene Pch1 was found in the amphiploids.
PMCID: PMC3265734  PMID: 22002121
Aegilops-Secale; Amphiploids; Eyespot; Genomic in situ hybridisation; Leaf rust; Resistance genes
8.  Combination Effects of (Tri)Azole Fungicides on Hormone Production and Xenobiotic Metabolism in a Human Placental Cell Line 
Consumers are exposed to multiple residues of different pesticides via the diet. Therefore, EU legislation for pesticides requires the evaluation of single active substances as well as the consideration of combination effects. Hence the analysis of combined effects of substances in a broad dose range represents a key challenge to current experimental and regulatory toxicology. Here we report evidence for additive effects for (tri)azole fungicides, a widely used group of antifungal agents, in the human placental cell line Jeg-3. In addition to the triazoles cyproconazole, epoxiconazole, flusilazole and tebuconazole and the azole fungicide prochloraz also pesticides from other chemical classes assumed to act via different modes of action (i.e., the organophosphate chlorpyrifos and the triazinylsulfonylurea herbicide triflusulfuron-methyl) were investigated. Endpoints analysed include synthesis of steroid hormone production (progesterone and estradiol) and gene expression of steroidogenic and non-steroidogenic cytochrome-P-450 (CYP) enzymes. For the triazoles and prochloraz, a dose dependent inhibition of progesterone production was observed and additive effects could be confirmed for several combinations of these substances in vitro. The non-triazoles chlorpyrifos and triflusulfuron-methyl did not affect this endpoint and, in line with this finding, no additivity was observed when these substances were applied in mixtures with prochloraz. While prochloraz slightly increased aromatase expression and estradiol production and triflusulfuron-methyl decreased estradiol production, none of the other substances had effects on the expression levels of steroidogenic CYP-enzymes in Jeg-3 cells. For some triazoles, prochloraz and chlorpyrifos a significant induction of CYP1A1 mRNA expression and potential combination effects for this endpoint were observed. Inhibition of CYP1A1 mRNA induction by the AhR inhibitor CH223191 indicated AhR receptor dependence of this effect.
PMCID: PMC4199042  PMID: 25233012
mixture toxicity; endocrine disruption; placenta; triazoles
9.  Clonal Expansion and Emergence of Environmental Multiple-Triazole-Resistant Aspergillus fumigatus Strains Carrying the TR34/L98H Mutations in the cyp51A Gene in India 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52871.
Azole resistance is an emerging problem in Aspergillus which impacts the management of aspergillosis. Here in we report the emergence and clonal spread of resistance to triazoles in environmental Aspergillus fumigatus isolates in India. A total of 44 (7%) A. fumigatus isolates from 24 environmental samples were found to be triazole resistant. The isolation rate of resistant A. fumigatus was highest (33%) from soil of tea gardens followed by soil from flower pots of the hospital garden (20%), soil beneath cotton trees (20%), rice paddy fields (12.3%), air samples of hospital wards (7.6%) and from soil admixed with bird droppings (3.8%). These strains showed cross-resistance to voriconazole, posaconazole, itraconazole and to six triazole fungicides used extensively in agriculture. Our analyses identified that all triazole-resistant strains from India shared the same TR34/L98H mutation in the cyp51 gene. In contrast to the genetic uniformity of azole-resistant strains the azole-susceptible isolates from patients and environments in India were genetically very diverse. All nine loci were highly polymorphic in populations of azole-susceptible isolates from both clinical and environmental samples. Furthermore, all Indian environmental and clinical azole resistant isolates shared the same multilocus microsatellite genotype not found in any other analyzed samples, either from within India or from the Netherlands, France, Germany or China. Our population genetic analyses suggest that the Indian azole-resistant A. fumigatus genotype was likely an extremely adaptive recombinant progeny derived from a cross between an azole-resistant strain migrated from outside of India and a native azole-susceptible strain from within India, followed by mutation and then rapid dispersal through many parts of India. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that exposure of A. fumigatus to azole fungicides in the environment causes cross-resistance to medical triazoles. The study emphasises the need of continued surveillance of resistance in environmental and clinical A. fumigatus strains.
PMCID: PMC3532406  PMID: 23285210
10.  Inherited resistance to Corynebacterium kutscheri in mice. 
Infection and Immunity  1976;14(2):475-482.
An analysis of the factors responsible for inherited resistance to Corynebacterium kutscheri was undertaken. Various inbred mouse strains were examined; these included the Swiss Lynch and C57Bl/l mice, their F1 and F2 progeny, and the progeny of the F1 backcrossed to each parent strain. Two modes of inherited resistance are described. An examination suggested that resistance as measured by the mean lethal dose of C. kutscheri was under polygenic control and was inherited continuously. However, the efficiency with which C. kutscheri was eliminated by the mononuclear phagocyte cells of the liver over 3 days differed markedly among strains. A genetic analysis of this mononuclear phagocyte microbicidal efficiency (MPME) in Swiss Lynch and C57Bl/6 mice was undertaken. The trait, MPME, was present, but did not segregate, in the F1 progeny or in the progeny of the backcross to the resistant C57Bl/6 parent; this was clear evidence of dominance. Moreover, MPME segregated in a ratio of 1:1 in the progeny of the backcross to the sensitive Swiss Lynch parent and in a ratio of 3:1 in the F2 progeny. It was concluded that MPME was inherited discontinuously and was controlled by a single dominant autosomal gene (or closely linked group); the recessive allele was assigned the gene symbol ack. Linkage experiments showed there to be no association between the ack locus and any of the immune-response genes.
PMCID: PMC420909  PMID: 971958
11.  Emergence of Azole Resistance in Aspergillus fumigatus and Spread of a Single Resistance Mechanism 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(11):e219.
Resistance to triazoles was recently reported in Aspergillus fumigatus isolates cultured from patients with invasive aspergillosis. The prevalence of azole resistance in A. fumigatus is unknown. We investigated the prevalence and spread of azole resistance using our culture collection that contained A. fumigatus isolates collected between 1994 and 2007.
Methods and Findings
We investigated the prevalence of itraconazole (ITZ) resistance in 1,912 clinical A. fumigatus isolates collected from 1,219 patients in our University Medical Centre over a 14-y period. The spread of resistance was investigated by analyzing 147 A. fumigatus isolates from 101 patients, from 28 other medical centres in The Netherlands and 317 isolates from six other countries. The isolates were characterized using phenotypic and molecular methods. The electronic patient files were used to determine the underlying conditions of the patients and the presence of invasive aspergillosis. ITZ-resistant isolates were found in 32 of 1,219 patients. All cases were observed after 1999 with an annual prevalence of 1.7% to 6%. The ITZ-resistant isolates also showed elevated minimum inhibitory concentrations of voriconazole, ravuconazole, and posaconazole. A substitution of leucine 98 for histidine in the cyp51A gene, together with two copies of a 34-bp sequence in tandem in the gene promoter (TR/L98H), was found to be the dominant resistance mechanism. Microsatellite analysis indicated that the ITZ-resistant isolates were genetically distinct but clustered. The ITZ-sensitive isolates were not more likely to be responsible for invasive aspergillosis than the ITZ-resistant isolates. ITZ resistance was found in isolates from 13 patients (12.8%) from nine other medical centres in The Netherlands, of which 69% harboured the TR/L98H substitution, and in six isolates originating from four other countries.
Azole resistance has emerged in A. fumigatus and might be more prevalent than currently acknowledged. The presence of a dominant resistance mechanism in clinical isolates suggests that isolates with this mechanism are spreading in our environment.
Editors' Summary
Aspergillosis is a group of lung diseases caused by infection with Aspergillus, a mold (fungus) that grows on decaying plant matter. Because Aspergillus is widespread in the environment, people often breathe in its spores. For most people, this is not a problem—their immune system rapidly kills the fungal spores. However, people with asthma or cystic fibrosis sometimes develop allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, a condition in which the spores trigger an allergic reaction in the lungs that causes coughing, wheezing. and breathlessness. Other people can develop an aspergilloma—a fungus ball that grows in cavities in the lung caused by other illnesses such as tuberculosis. However, the most serious form of aspergillosis is invasive aspergillosis. This pneumonia-like infection, which is fatal if left untreated, affects people who have a weakened immune system (for example, people with leukemia) and can spread from the lungs into the heart, brain, and other parts of the body. Aspergillosis is usually treated with triazole drugs, which inhibit an enzyme that the fungus needs to make its cell membranes; this enzyme is encoded by a gene called cyp51A. Voriconazole is the first-line therapy for aspergillosis but itraconazole and posaconazole are also sometimes used and ravuconazole is in clinical development.
Why Was This Study Done?
About half of patients with invasive aspergillosis recover if they are given triazoles. Worryingly, however, strains of Aspergillus fumigatus (the type of Aspergillus usually involved in invasive aspergillosis) with resistance to several triazoles have recently been isolated from some patients in The Netherlands. If multi-azole resistant strains of A. fumigatus become common, they could have a serious impact on the management of invasive aspergillosis. However, noone knows what proportion of A. fumigatus strains isolated from patients with aspergillosis are resistant to several azole drugs. That is, noone knows the “prevalence” of multi-azole resistance. In this study, the researchers investigate the prevalence and development of azole resistance in A. fumigatus.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Since 1994, all fungal isolates from patients at the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in the Netherlands have been stored. The researchers' search of this collection yielded 1,908 A. fumigatus isolates that had been collected from 1,219 patients over a 14-year period. Of these, the isolates from 32 patients grew in the presence of itraconazole. All the itraconazole-resistant isolates (which also had increased resistance to voriconazole, ravuconazole, and posaconazole) were collected after 1999; the annual prevalence of itraconazole-resistant isolates ranged from 1.7% to 6%. The researchers then sequenced the cyp51A gene in each resistant isolate. Thirty had a genetic alteration represented as TR/L98H. This “dominant resistance mechanism” consisted of a single amino acid change in the cyp51A gene and an alteration in the gene's promoter region (the region that controls how much protein is made from a gene). The researchers also analyzed A. fumigatus isolates from patients admitted to 28 other hospitals in the Netherlands. Itraconazole resistance was present in isolates from 13 patients (out of 101 patients) from nine hospitals; the TR/L98H genetic alteration was present in 69% of the itraconazole-resistant isolates. Finally, itraconazole resistance was present in six isolates from four other countries (out of 317 isolates from six countries); only one Norwegian isolate had the TR/L98H genetic alteration.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that azole resistance is emerging in A. fumigatus and may already be more prevalent than generally thought. Given the dominance of the TR/L98H genetic alteration in the azole-resistant clinical isolates, the researchers suggest that A. fumigatus isolates harboring this alteration might be present and spreading in the environment rather than being selected for during azole treatment of patients. Why azole resistance should develop in A. fumigatus in the environment is unclear but might be caused by the use of azole-containing fungicides. Further studies are now urgently needed to find out if this is the case, to measure the international prevalence and spread of A. fumigatus isolates harboring the TR/L98H genetic alteration, and, most importantly, to develop alternative treatments for patients with azole-resistant aspergillosis.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia has a page on aspergillosis (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Direct health encyclopedia has detailed information about all aspects of aspergillosis
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has information about aspergillosis
Paul Verweij and colleagues show that azole resistance has emerged inAspergillus fumigatus in The Netherlands and that a dominant resistance mechanism is present in clinical isolates.
PMCID: PMC2581623  PMID: 18998768
12.  Chemical combinations elucidate pathway interactions and regulation relevant to Hepatitis C replication 
SREBP-2, oxidosqualene cyclase (OSC) or lanosterol demethylase were identified as novel sterol pathway-associated targets that, when probed with chemical agents, can inhibit hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication.Using a combination chemical genetics approach, combinations of chemicals targeting sterol pathway enzymes downstream of and including OSC or protein geranylgeranyl transferase I (PGGT) produce robust and selective synergistic inhibition of HCV replication. Inhibition of enzymes upstream of OSC elicit proviral responses that are dominant to the effects of inhibiting all downstream targets.Inhibition of the sterol pathway without inhibition of regulatory feedback mechanisms ultimately results in an increase in HCV replication because of a compensatory upregulation of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR) expression. Increases in HMGCR expression without inhibition of HMGCR enzymatic activity ultimately stimulate HCV replication through increasing the cellular pool of geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate (GGPP).Chemical inhibitors that ultimately prevent SREBP-2 activation, inhibit PGGT or encourage the production of polar sterols have great potential as HCV therapeutics if associated toxicities can be reduced.
Chemical inhibition of enzymes in either the cholesterol or the fatty acid biosynthetic pathways has been shown to impact viral replication, both positively and negatively (Su et al, 2002; Ye et al, 2003; Kapadia and Chisari, 2005; Sagan et al, 2006; Amemiya et al, 2008). FBL2 has been identified as a 50 kDa geranylgeranylated host protein that is necessary for localization of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication complex to the membranous web through its close association with the HCV protein NS5A and is critical for HCV replication (Wang et al, 2005). Inhibition of the protein geranylgeranyl transferase I (PGGT), an enzyme that transfers geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate (GGPP) to cellular proteins such as FBL2 for the purpose of membrane anchoring, negatively impacts HCV replication (Ye et al, 2003). Conversely, chemical agents that increase intracellular GGPP concentrations promote viral replication (Kapadia and Chisari, 2005). Statin compounds that inhibit 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR), the rate-limiting enzyme in the sterol pathway (Goldstein and Brown, 1990), have been suggested to inhibit HCV replication through ultimately reducing the cellular pool of GGPP (Ye et al, 2003; Kapadia and Chisari, 2005; Ikeda et al, 2006). However, inhibition of the sterol pathway with statin drugs has not yielded consistent results in patients. The use of statins for the treatment of HCV is likely to be complicated by the reported compensatory increase in HMGCR expression in vitro and in vivo (Stone et al, 1989; Cohen et al, 1993) in response to treatment. Enzymes in the sterol pathway are regulated on a transcriptional level by sterol regulatory element-binding proteins (SREBPs), specifically SREBP-2 (Hua et al, 1993; Brown and Goldstein, 1997). When cholesterol stores in cells are depleted, SREBP-2 activates transcription of genes in the sterol pathway such as HMGCR, HMG-CoA synthase, farnesyl pyrophosphate (FPP) synthase, squalene synthase (SQLS) and the LDL receptor (Smith et al, 1988, 1990; Sakai et al, 1996; Brown and Goldstein, 1999; Horton et al, 2002). The requirement of additional downstream sterol pathway metabolites for HCV replication has not been completely elucidated.
To further understand the impact of the sterol pathway and its regulation on HCV replication, we conducted a high-throughput combination chemical genetic screen using 16 chemical probes that are known to modulate the activity of target enzymes relating to the sterol biosynthesis pathway (Figure 1). Using this approach, we identified several novel antiviral targets including SREBP-2 as well as targets downstream of HMGCR in the sterol pathway such as oxidosqualene cyclase (OSC) and lanosterol demethylase. Many of our chemical probes, specifically SR-12813, farnesol and squalestatin, strongly promoted replicon replication. The actions of both farnesol and squalestatin ultimately result in an increase in the cellular pool of GGPP, which is known to increase HCV replication (Ye et al, 2003; Kapadia and Chisari, 2005; Wang et al, 2005).
Chemical combinations targeting enzymes upstream of squalene epoxidase (SQLE) at the top of the sterol pathway (Figure 4A) elicited Bateson-type epistatic responses (Boone et al, 2007), where the upstream agent's response predominates over the effects of inhibiting all downstream targets. This was especially notable for combinations including simvastatin and either U18666A or squalestatin, and for squalestatin in combination with Ro48-8071. Treatment with squalestatin prevents the SQLS substrate, farnesyl pyrophosphate (FPP) from being further metabolized by the sterol pathway. As FPP concentrations increase, the metabolite can be shunted away from the sterol pathway toward farnesylation and GGPP synthetic pathways, resulting in an increase in host protein geranylgeranylation, including FBL2, and consequently replicon replication. This increase in replicon replication explains the source of the observed epistasis over Ro48-8071 treatment.
Combinations between probes targeting enzymes downstream of and including OSC produced robust synergies with each other or with a PGGT inhibitor. Figure 4B highlights examples of antiviral synergy resulting from treatment of cells with an OSC inhibitor in combination with an inhibitor of either an enzyme upstream or downstream of OSC. A combination of terconazole and U18666A is synergistic without similar combination effects in the host proliferation screen. Likewise, clomiphene was also synergistic when added to replicon cells in combination with U18666A. One of the greatest synergies observed downstream in the sterol pathway is a combination of amorolfine and AY 9944, suggesting that there is value in developing combinations of drugs that target enzymes in the sterol pathway, which are downstream of HMGCR.
Interactions with the protein prenylation pathway also showed strong mechanistic patterns (Figure 4C). GGTI-286 is a peptidomimetic compound resembling the CAAX domain of a protein to be geranylgeranylated and is a competitive inhibitor of protein geranylgeranylation. Simvastatin impedes the antiviral effect of GGTI-286 at low concentrations but that antagonism is balanced by comparable synergy at higher concentrations. At the low simvastatin concentrations, a compensatory increase in HMGCR expression leads to increased cellular levels of GGPP, which are likely to result in an increase in PGGT enzymatic turnover and decreased GGTI-286 efficacy. The antiviral synergy observed at the higher inhibitor concentrations is likely nonspecific as synergy was also observed in a host viability assay. Further downstream, however, a competitive interaction was observed between GGTI-286 and squalestatin, where the opposing effect of one compound obscures the other compound's effect. This competitive relationship between GGTI and SQLE explains the epistatic response observed between those two agents. For inhibitors of targets downstream of OSC, such as amorolfine, there are strong antiviral synergies with GGTI-286. Notably, combinations with OSC inhibitors and GGTI-286 were selective, in that comparable synergy was not found in a host viability assay. This selectivity suggests that jointly targeting OSC and PGGT is a promising avenue for future HCV therapy development.
This study provides a comprehensive and unique perspective into the impact of sterol pathway regulation on HCV replication and provides compelling insight into the use of chemical combinations to maximize antiviral effects while minimizing proviral consequences. Our results suggest that HCV therapeutics developed against sterol pathway targets must consider the impact on underlying sterol pathway regulation. We found combinations of inhibitors of the lower part of the sterol pathway that are effective and synergistic with each other when tested in combination. Furthermore, the combination effects observed with simvastatin suggest that, though statins inhibit HMGCR activity, the resulting regulatory consequences of such inhibition ultimately lead to undesirable epistatic effects. Inhibitors that prevent SREBP-2 activation, inhibit PGGT or encourage the production of polar sterols have great potential as HCV therapeutics if associated toxicities can be reduced.
The search for effective Hepatitis C antiviral therapies has recently focused on host sterol metabolism and protein prenylation pathways that indirectly affect viral replication. However, inhibition of the sterol pathway with statin drugs has not yielded consistent results in patients. Here, we present a combination chemical genetic study to explore how the sterol and protein prenylation pathways work together to affect hepatitis C viral replication in a replicon assay. In addition to finding novel targets affecting viral replication, our data suggest that the viral replication is strongly affected by sterol pathway regulation. There is a marked transition from antagonistic to synergistic antiviral effects as the combination targets shift downstream along the sterol pathway. We also show how pathway regulation frustrates potential hepatitis C therapies based on the sterol pathway, and reveal novel synergies that selectively inhibit hepatitis C replication over host toxicity. In particular, combinations targeting the downstream sterol pathway enzymes produced robust and selective synergistic inhibition of hepatitis C replication. Our findings show how combination chemical genetics can reveal critical pathway connections relevant to viral replication, and can identify potential treatments with an increased therapeutic window.
PMCID: PMC2913396  PMID: 20531405
chemical genetics; combinations and synergy; hepatitis C; replicon; sterol biosynthesis
13.  Identification of ABC Transporter Genes of Fusarium graminearum with Roles in Azole Tolerance and/or Virulence 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79042.
Fusarium graminearum is a plant pathogen infecting several important cereals, resulting in substantial yield losses and mycotoxin contamination of the grain. Triazole fungicides are used to control diseases caused by this fungus on a worldwide scale. Our previous microarray study indicated that 15 ABC transporter genes were transcriptionally upregulated in response to tebuconazole treatment. Here, we deleted four ABC transporter genes in two genetic backgrounds of F. graminearum representing the DON (deoxynivalenol) and the NIV (nivalenol) trichothecene chemotypes. Deletion of FgABC3 and FgABC4 belonging to group I of ABC-G and to group V of ABC-C subfamilies of ABC transporters, respectively, considerably increased the sensitivity to the class I sterol biosynthesis inhibitors triazoles and fenarimol. Such effects were specific since they did not occur with any other fungicide class tested. Assessing the contribution of the four ABC transporters to virulence of F. graminearum revealed that, irrespective of their chemotypes, deletion mutants of FgABC1 (ABC-C subfamily group V) and FgABC3 were impeded in virulence on wheat, barley and maize. Phylogenetic context and analyses of mycotoxin production suggests that FgABC3 may encode a transporter protecting the fungus from host-derived antifungal molecules. In contrast, FgABC1 may encode a transporter responsible for the secretion of fungal secondary metabolites alleviating defence of the host. Our results show that ABC transporters play important and diverse roles in both fungicide resistance and pathogenesis of F. graminearum.
PMCID: PMC3823976  PMID: 24244413
14.  Quantitative trait locus analysis of resistance to panicle blast in the rice cultivar Miyazakimochi 
Rice  2014;7(1):2.
Rice blast is a destructive disease caused by Magnaporthe oryzae, and it has a large impact on rice production worldwide. Compared with leaf blast resistance, our understanding of panicle blast resistance is limited, with only one panicle blast resistance gene, Pb1, isolated so far. The japonica cultivar Miyazakimochi shows resistance to panicle blast, yet the genetic components accounting for this resistance remain to be determined.
In this study, we evaluated the panicle blast resistance of populations derived from a cross between Miyazakimochi and the Bikei 22 cultivar, which is susceptible to both leaf and panicle blast. The phenotypic analyses revealed no correlation between panicle blast resistance and leaf blast resistance. Quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis of 158 recombinant inbred lines using 112 developed genome-wide and 35 previously reported polymerase chain reaction (PCR) markers revealed the presence of two QTLs conferring panicle blast resistance in Miyazakimochi: a major QTL, qPbm11, on chromosome 11; and a minor QTL, qPbm9, on chromosome 9. To clarify the contribution of these QTLs to panicle blast resistance, 24 lines homozygous for each QTL were selected from 2,818 progeny of a BC2F7 backcrossed population, and characterized for disease phenotypes. The panicle blast resistance of the lines harboring qPbm11 was very similar to the resistant donor parental cultivar Miyazakimochi, whereas the contribution of qPbm9 to the resistance was small. Genotyping of the BC2F7 individuals highlighted the overlap between the qPbm11 region and a locus of the panicle blast resistance gene, Pb1. Reverse transcriptase PCR analysis revealed that the Pb1 transcript was absent in the panicles of Miyazakimochi, demonstrating that qPbm11 is a novel genetic component of panicle blast resistance.
This study revealed that Miyazakimochi harbors a novel panicle blast resistance controlled mainly by the major QTL qPbm11. qPbm11 is distinct from Pb1 and could be a genetic source for breeding panicle blast resistance, and will improve understanding of the molecular basis of host resistance to panicle blast.
PMCID: PMC4052777  PMID: 24920970
Oryza sativa L; Magnaporthe oryzae; Panicle blast resistance; QTL
15.  Molecular Mechanisms of Drug Resistance in Clinical Candida Species Isolated from Tunisian Hospitals 
Antifungal resistance of Candida species is a clinical problem in the management of diseases caused by these pathogens. In this study we identified from a collection of 423 clinical samples taken from Tunisian hospitals two clinical Candida species (Candida albicans JEY355 and Candida tropicalis JEY162) with decreased susceptibility to azoles and polyenes. For JEY355, the fluconazole (FLC) MIC was 8 μg/ml. Azole resistance in C. albicans JEY355 was mainly caused by overexpression of a multidrug efflux pump of the major facilitator superfamily, Mdr1. The regulator of Mdr1, MRR1, contained a yet-unknown gain-of-function mutation (V877F) causing MDR1 overexpression. The C. tropicalis JEY162 isolate demonstrated cross-resistance between FLC (MIC > 128 μg/ml), voriconazole (MIC > 16 μg/ml), and amphotericin B (MIC > 32 μg/ml). Sterol analysis using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry revealed that ergosterol was undetectable in JEY162 and that it accumulated 14α-methyl fecosterol, thus indicating a perturbation in the function of at least two main ergosterol biosynthesis proteins (Erg11 and Erg3). Sequence analyses of C. tropicalis ERG11 (CtERG11) and CtERG3 from JEY162 revealed a deletion of 132 nucleotides and a single amino acid substitution (S258F), respectively. These two alleles were demonstrated to be nonfunctional and thus are consistent with previous studies showing that ERG11 mutants can only survive in combination with other ERG3 mutations. CtERG3 and CtERG11 wild-type alleles were replaced by the defective genes in a wild-type C. tropicalis strain, resulting in a drug resistance phenotype identical to that of JEY162. This genetic evidence demonstrated that CtERG3 and CtERG11 mutations participated in drug resistance. During reconstitution of the drug resistance in C. tropicalis, a strain was obtained harboring only defective Cterg11 allele and containing as a major sterol the toxic metabolite 14α-methyl-ergosta-8,24(28)-dien-3α,6β-diol, suggesting that ERG3 was still functional. This strain therefore challenged the current belief that ERG11 mutations cannot be viable unless accompanied by compensatory mutations. In conclusion, this study, in addition to identifying a novel MRR1 mutation in C. albicans, constitutes the first report on a clinical C. tropicalis with defective activity of sterol 14α-demethylase and sterol Δ5,6-desaturase leading to azole-polyene cross-resistance.
PMCID: PMC3697321  PMID: 23629718
16.  Fate of DNA encoding hygromycin resistance after meiosis in transformed strains of Gibberella fujikuroi (Fusarium moniliforme). 
Stability of foreign DNA transformed into a novel host is an important parameter in decisions to permit the release of genetically engineered microorganisms into the environment. Meiotic instability of transformed DNA has been reported in fungi such as Ascobolus, Aspergillus, and Neurospora. We used strains of Gibberella fujikuroi (Fusarium moniliforme) transformed with the hygr gene from Escherichia coli to study meiotic stability of foreign DNA in this plant pathogenic fungus. Crosses with single-copy transformants segregated hygr:hygs in a 1:1 manner consistent with that expected for a Mendelian locus in a haploid organism. Multicopy transformants, however, segregated hygr:hygs in a 1:2 manner that was not consistent with Mendelian expectations for a chromosomal marker, even though two unrelated auxotrophic nuclear genes were segregating normally. Segregation ratios in crosses in which hygr was introduced via the male parent did not differ significantly from crosses in which the transformed strain served as the female parent. Some of the sensitive progeny from the crosses with the multicopy transformants carried hygr sequences. When these phenotypically sensitive progeny were crossed with a wild-type strain that carried no hygr sequences, some of the progeny were phenotypically hygr. Some progeny from some crosses were more resistant to hygromycin than were their sibs or the transformant strains that served as their parents. Transformants passaged through a maize plant only rarely segregated progeny with the high levels of resistance. The mechanism underlying these genetic instabilities is not clear but may involve unequal crossing over or methylation or both. Further work with cloned genes with homology to sequences already present in the Fusarium genome is warranted.
PMCID: PMC182965  PMID: 1854200
17.  Inhibition of Efflux Transporter-Mediated Fungicide Resistance in Pyrenophora tritici-repentis by a Derivative of 4′-Hydroxyflavone and Enhancement of Fungicide Activity 
Populations of the causal agent of wheat tan spot, Pyrenophora tritici-repentis, that are collected from fields frequently treated with reduced fungicide concentrations have reduced sensitivity to strobilurin fungicides and azole fungicides (C14-demethylase inhibitors). Energy-dependent efflux transporter activity can be induced under field conditions and after in vitro application of sublethal amounts of fungicides. Efflux transporters can mediate cross-resistance to a number of fungicides that belong to different chemical classes and have different modes of action. Resistant isolates can grow on substrata amended with fungicides and can infect plants treated with fungicides at levels above recommended field concentrations. We identified the hydroxyflavone derivative 2-(4-ethoxy-phenyl)-chromen-4-one as a potent inhibitor of energy-dependent fungicide efflux transporters in P. tritici-repentis. Application of this compound in combination with fungicides shifted fungicide-resistant P. tritici-repentis isolates back to normal sensitivity levels and prevented infection of wheat leaves. These results highlight the role of energy-dependent efflux transporters in fungicide resistance and could enable a novel disease management strategy based on the inhibition of fungicide efflux to be developed.
PMCID: PMC1151812  PMID: 15933029
18.  Inheritance of Resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki in Trichoplusia ni 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2004;70(10):5859-5867.
The genetic inheritance of resistance to a commercial formulation of Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki was examined in a Trichoplusia ni colony initiated from a resistant population present in a commercial vegetable greenhouse in British Columbia, Canada. Progeny of F1 reciprocal crosses and backcrosses between F1 larvae and resistant (PR) and susceptible (PS) populations were assayed at different B. thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki concentrations. The responses of progeny of reciprocal F1 crosses were identical, indicating that the resistant trait was autosomal. The 50% lethal concentration for the F1 larvae was slightly higher than that for PS, suggesting that resistance is partially recessive. The responses of both backcross progeny (F1 × PR, F1 × PS) did not correspond to predictions from a single-locus model. The inclusion of a nonhomozygous resistant parental line in the monogenic model significantly increased the correspondence between the expected and observed results for the F1 × PR backcross but decreased the correspondence with the F1 × PS backcross results. This finding suggests that resistance to B. thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki in this T. ni population is due to more than one gene.
PMCID: PMC522097  PMID: 15466525
19.  Triazole Fungicides Can Induce Cross-Resistance to Medical Triazoles in Aspergillus fumigatus 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e31801.
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.
PMCID: PMC3291550  PMID: 22396740
20.  Fungicide-Driven Evolution and Molecular Basis of Multidrug Resistance in Field Populations of the Grey Mould Fungus Botrytis cinerea 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(12):e1000696.
The grey mould fungus Botrytis cinerea causes losses of commercially important fruits, vegetables and ornamentals worldwide. Fungicide treatments are effective for disease control, but bear the risk of resistance development. The major resistance mechanism in fungi is target protein modification resulting in reduced drug binding. Multiple drug resistance (MDR) caused by increased efflux activity is common in human pathogenic microbes, but rarely described for plant pathogens. Annual monitoring for fungicide resistance in field isolates from fungicide-treated vineyards in France and Germany revealed a rapidly increasing appearance of B. cinerea field populations with three distinct MDR phenotypes. All MDR strains showed increased fungicide efflux activity and overexpression of efflux transporter genes. Similar to clinical MDR isolates of Candida yeasts that are due to transcription factor mutations, all MDR1 strains were shown to harbor activating mutations in a transcription factor (Mrr1) that controls the gene encoding ABC transporter AtrB. MDR2 strains had undergone a unique rearrangement in the promoter region of the major facilitator superfamily transporter gene mfsM2, induced by insertion of a retrotransposon-derived sequence. MDR2 strains carrying the same rearranged mfsM2 allele have probably migrated from French to German wine-growing regions. The roles of atrB, mrr1 and mfsM2 were proven by the phenotypes of knock-out and overexpression mutants. As confirmed by sexual crosses, combinations of mrr1 and mfsM2 mutations lead to MDR3 strains with higher broad-spectrum resistance. An MDR3 strain was shown in field experiments to be selected against sensitive strains by fungicide treatments. Our data document for the first time the rising prevalence, spread and molecular basis of MDR populations in a major plant pathogen in agricultural environments. These populations will increase the risk of grey mould rot and hamper the effectiveness of current strategies for fungicide resistance management.
Author Summary
Bacterial and fungal pathogens cause diseases in humans and plants alike. Antibiotics and fungicides are used for disease control, but the microbes are able to adapt quickly to these drugs by mutation. Multiple drug resistance (MDR) is well investigated in human pathogens and causes increasing problems with antibiotic therapy. Driven by the continuous use of fungicides in commercial vineyards, three types of rapidly increasing multidrug resistant populations of the grey mould fungus Botrytis cinerea have appeared in French vineyards since the mid 1990s. Using a combination of physiological, molecular and genetic techniques, we demonstrate that these MDR phenotypes are correlated with increased drug efflux activity and overexpression of two efflux transporters. Just two types of mutations, one in a regulatory protein that controls drug efflux, and the other in the gene for an efflux transporter itself, are sufficient to explain the three MDR phenotypes. We also provide evidence that a subpopulation of the French MDR strains has migrated eastward into German wine-growing regions. We anticipate that by continuous selection of multi-resistant strains, chemical control of grey mould in the field will become increasingly difficult.
PMCID: PMC2785876  PMID: 20019793
21.  Flucytosine-Fluconazole Cross-Resistance in Purine-Cytosine Permease-Deficient Candida lusitaniae Clinical Isolates: Indirect Evidence of a Fluconazole Uptake Transporter 
An unusual interaction between flucytosine and fluconazole was observed when a collection of 60 Candida lusitaniae clinical isolates was screened for cross-resistance. Among eight isolates resistant to flucytosine (MIC ≥ 128 μg/ml) and susceptible to fluconazole (0.5 < MIC < 2 μg/ml), four became flucytosine-fluconazole cross resistant when both antifungals were used simultaneously. Fluconazole resistance occurred only in the presence of high flucytosine concentrations, and the higher the fluconazole concentration used, the greater the flucytosine concentration necessary to trigger the cross-resistance. When the flucytosine- and fluconazole-resistant cells were grown in the presence of fluconazole alone, the cells reversed to fluconazole susceptibility. Genetic analyses of the progeny from crosses between resistant and sensitive isolates showed that resistance to flucytosine was derived from a recessive mutation in a single gene, whereas cross-resistance to fluconazole seemed to vary like a quantitative trait. We further demonstrated that the four clinical isolates were susceptible to 5-fluorouracil and that cytosine deaminase activity was unaffected. Kinetic transport studies with [14C]flucytosine showed that flucytosine resistance was due to a defect in the purine-cytosine permease. Our hypothesis was that extracellular flucytosine would subsequently behave as a competitive inhibitor of fluconazole uptake transport. Finally, in vitro selection of spontaneous and induced mutants indicated that such a cross-resistance mechanism could also affect other Candida species, including C. albicans, C. tropicalis, and C. glabrata. This is the first report of a putative fluconazole uptake transporter in Candida species and of a possible resistance mechanism associated with a deficiency in the uptake of this drug.
PMCID: PMC152504  PMID: 12654658
22.  Efficient linkage mapping using exome capture and extreme QTL in schistosome parasites 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):617.
Identification of parasite genes that underlie traits such as drug resistance and host specificity is challenging using classical linkage mapping approaches. Extreme QTL (X-QTL) methods, originally developed by rodent malaria and yeast researchers, promise to increase the power and simplify logistics of linkage mapping in experimental crosses of schistosomes (or other helminth parasites), because many 1000s of progeny can be analysed, phenotyping is not required, and progeny pools rather than individuals are genotyped. We explored the utility of this method for mapping a drug resistance gene in the human parasitic fluke Schistosoma mansoni.
We staged a genetic cross between oxamniquine sensitive and resistant parasites, then between two F1 progeny, to generate multiple F2 progeny. One group of F2s infecting hamsters was treated with oxamniquine, while a second group was left untreated. We used exome capture to reduce the size of the genome (from 363 Mb to 15 Mb) and exomes from pooled F2 progeny (treated males, untreated males, treated females, untreated females) and the two parent parasites were sequenced to high read depth (mean = 95-366×) and allele frequencies at 14,489 variants compared. We observed dramatic enrichment of alleles from the resistant parent in a small region of chromosome 6 in drug-treated male and female pools (combined analysis: = 11.07, p = 8.74 × 10-29). This region contains Smp_089320 a gene encoding a sulfotransferase recently implicated in oxamniquine resistance using classical linkage mapping methods.
These results (a) demonstrate the utility of exome capture for generating reduced representation libraries in Schistosoma mansoni, and (b) provide proof-of-principle that X-QTL methods can be successfully applied to an important human helminth. The combination of these methods will simplify linkage analysis of biomedically or biologically important traits in this parasite.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-617) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4117968  PMID: 25048426
X-QTL; Exome capture; Schistosoma mansoni; Oxamniquine resistance; NGS
23.  Genetic Analysis of Fenhexamid-Resistant Field Isolates of the Phytopathogenic Fungus Botrytis cinerea▿ †  
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2008;52(11):3933-3940.
The hydroxyanilide fenhexamid, one of the latest antibotrytis fungicides, active especially against leotiomycete plant-pathogenic fungi, inhibits 3-ketoreductase of the C-4-demethylation enzyme complex during ergosterol biosynthesis. We isolated Botrytis cinerea strains resistant to various levels of fenhexamid from French and German vineyards. The sequence of the gene encoding 3-ketoreductase, erg27, varied according to levels of resistance. Highly resistant isolates, termed HydR3+, all presented a modification of the phenylalanine at the C terminus of the putative transmembrane domain at position 412, either to serine (85% of the isolates), to isoleucine (11.5% of the isolates), or to valine (3.5% of the isolates). The introduction of the \documentclass[10pt]{article} \usepackage{amsmath} \usepackage{wasysym} \usepackage{amsfonts} \usepackage{amssymb} \usepackage{amsbsy} \usepackage{mathrsfs} \usepackage{pmc} \usepackage[Euler]{upgreek} \pagestyle{empty} \oddsidemargin -1.0in \begin{document} \begin{equation*}erg27^{HydR3^{+}}\end{equation*}\end{document} allele into a fenhexamid-sensitive strain by means of a replicative plasmid conferred fenhexamid resistance on the resulting transformants, showing that the mutations at position 412 are responsible for fenhexamid resistance. Weakly to moderately resistant isolates, termed HydR3−, showed different point mutations between the strains in the sequenced regions of the erg27 gene, corresponding to amino acid changes between positions 195 and 400 of the protein. The \documentclass[10pt]{article} \usepackage{amsmath} \usepackage{wasysym} \usepackage{amsfonts} \usepackage{amssymb} \usepackage{amsbsy} \usepackage{mathrsfs} \usepackage{pmc} \usepackage[Euler]{upgreek} \pagestyle{empty} \oddsidemargin -1.0in \begin{document} \begin{equation*}erg27^{HydR3^{-}}\end{equation*}\end{document} alleles on the replicative vector introduced into a sensitive strain did not confer resistance to fenhexamid. Genetic crosses between HydR3− and sensitive strains showed strict correlation between the sequenced mutation in the erg27 gene and the resistance phenotypes, suggesting that these mutations are linked to fenhexamid resistance. The HydR3 mutations possibly modify the affinity of the 3-ketoreductase enzyme for its specific inhibitor, fenhexamid.
PMCID: PMC2573126  PMID: 18779358
24.  Acaricide, Fungicide and Drug Interactions in Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54092.
Chemical analysis shows that honey bees (Apis mellifera) and hive products contain many pesticides derived from various sources. The most abundant pesticides are acaricides applied by beekeepers to control Varroa destructor. Beekeepers also apply antimicrobial drugs to control bacterial and microsporidial diseases. Fungicides may enter the hive when applied to nearby flowering crops. Acaricides, antimicrobial drugs and fungicides are not highly toxic to bees alone, but in combination there is potential for heightened toxicity due to interactive effects.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Laboratory bioassays based on mortality rates in adult worker bees demonstrated interactive effects among acaricides, as well as between acaricides and antimicrobial drugs and between acaricides and fungicides. Toxicity of the acaricide tau-fluvalinate increased in combination with other acaricides and most other compounds tested (15 of 17) while amitraz toxicity was mostly unchanged (1 of 15). The sterol biosynthesis inhibiting (SBI) fungicide prochloraz elevated the toxicity of the acaricides tau-fluvalinate, coumaphos and fenpyroximate, likely through inhibition of detoxicative cytochrome P450 monooxygenase activity. Four other SBI fungicides increased the toxicity of tau-fluvalinate in a dose-dependent manner, although possible evidence of P450 induction was observed at the lowest fungicide doses. Non-transitive interactions between some acaricides were observed. Sublethal amitraz pre-treatment increased the toxicity of the three P450-detoxified acaricides, but amitraz toxicity was not changed by sublethal treatment with the same three acaricides. A two-fold change in the toxicity of tau-fluvalinate was observed between years, suggesting a possible change in the genetic composition of the bees tested.
Interactions with acaricides in honey bees are similar to drug interactions in other animals in that P450-mediated detoxication appears to play an important role. Evidence of non-transivity, year-to-year variation and induction of detoxication enzymes indicates that pesticide interactions in bees may be as complex as drug interactions in mammals.
PMCID: PMC3558502  PMID: 23382869
25.  Sterol Biosynthesis Is Required for Heat Resistance but Not Extracellular Survival in Leishmania 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(10):e1004427.
Sterol biosynthesis is a crucial pathway in eukaryotes leading to the production of cholesterol in animals and various C24-alkyl sterols (ergostane-based sterols) in fungi, plants, and trypanosomatid protozoa. Sterols are important membrane components and precursors for the synthesis of powerful bioactive molecules, including steroid hormones in mammals. Their functions in pathogenic protozoa are not well characterized, which limits the development of sterol synthesis inhibitors as drugs. Here we investigated the role of sterol C14α-demethylase (C14DM) in Leishmania parasites. C14DM is a cytochrome P450 enzyme and the primary target of azole drugs. In Leishmania, genetic or chemical inactivation of C14DM led to a complete loss of ergostane-based sterols and accumulation of 14-methylated sterols. Despite the drastic change in lipid composition, C14DM-null mutants (c14dm−) were surprisingly viable and replicative in culture. They did exhibit remarkable defects including increased membrane fluidity, failure to maintain detergent resistant membrane fraction, and hypersensitivity to heat stress. These c14dm− mutants showed severely reduced virulence in mice but were highly resistant to itraconazole and amphotericin B, two drugs targeting sterol synthesis. Our findings suggest that the accumulation of toxic sterol intermediates in c14dm− causes strong membrane perturbation and significant vulnerability to stress. The new knowledge may help improve the efficacy of current drugs against pathogenic protozoa by exploiting the fitness loss associated with drug resistance.
Author Summary
Leishmania parasites are transmitted through the bite of sandflies causing a spectrum of serious diseases in humans. Current drugs are inadequate and no safe vaccine is available. These parasites produce different types of sterols from humans, making the sterol synthesis pathway a valuable target of selective inhibitors. However, functions of sterols and sterol synthesis in protozoa are poorly understood, which hinders the development of new and improved treatments. In this study, we investigated the role of sterol C14α-demethylase, a key enzyme in sterol metabolism and the primary target of azole drugs. Loss of sterol C14α-demethylase completely altered the sterol composition in Leishmania, leading to increased membrane fluidity, failure to maintain lipid rafts, and hypersensitivity to heat stress. Despite these defects, null mutants of sterol C14α-demethylase were viable during the promastigote stage (found in sandflies) and could still cause disease in mice (although at a reduced capacity). Our findings provide direct evidence to support the role of specific sterols in membrane stability and stress response. The new knowledge may also help the development of new treatments or improve the efficacy of current drugs against pathogenic protozoa.
PMCID: PMC4207814  PMID: 25340392

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