Purified Candida albicans sterol 14-α demethylase (CaCYP51) bound the CYP51 substrates lanosterol and eburicol, producing type I binding spectra with Ks values of 11 and 25 μM, respectively, and a Km value of 6 μM for lanosterol. Azole binding to CaCYP51 was “tight” with both the type II spectral intensity (ΔAmax) and the azole concentration required to obtain a half-ΔAmax being proportional to the CaCYP51 concentration. Tight binding of fluconazole and itraconazole was confirmed by 50% inhibitory concentration determinations from CYP51 reconstitution assays. CaCYP51 had similar affinities for clotrimazole, econazole, itraconazole, ketoconazole, miconazole, and voriconazole, with Kd values of 10 to 26 μM under oxidative conditions, compared with 47 μM for fluconazole. The affinities of CaCYP51 for fluconazole and itraconazole appeared to be 4- and 2-fold lower based on CO displacement studies than those when using direct ligand binding under oxidative conditions. Econazole and miconazole were most readily displaced by carbon monoxide, followed by clotrimazole, ketoconazole, and fluconazole, and then voriconazole (7.8 pmol min−1), but itraconzole could not be displaced by carbon monoxide. This work reports in depth the characterization of the azole binding properties of wild-type C. albicans CYP51, including that of voriconazole, and will contribute to effective screening of new therapeutic azole antifungal agents. Preliminary comparative studies with the I471T CaCYP51 protein suggested that fluconazole resistance conferred by this mutation was through a combination of increased turnover, increased affinity for substrate, and a reduced affinity for fluconazole in the presence of substrate, allowing the enzyme to remain functionally active, albeit at reduced velocity, at higher fluconazole concentrations.
Prothioconazole is a new triazolinthione fungicide used in agriculture. We have used Candida albicans CYP51 (CaCYP51) to investigate the in vitro activity of prothioconazole and to consider the use of such compounds in the medical arena. Treatment of C. albicans cells with prothioconazole, prothioconazole-desthio, and voriconazole resulted in CYP51 inhibition, as evidenced by the accumulation of 14α-methylated sterol substrates (lanosterol and eburicol) and the depletion of ergosterol. We then compared the inhibitor binding properties of prothioconazole, prothioconazole-desthio, and voriconazole with CaCYP51. We observed that prothioconazole-desthio and voriconazole bind noncompetitively to CaCYP51 in the expected manner of azole antifungals (with type II inhibitors binding to heme as the sixth ligand), while prothioconazole binds competitively and does not exhibit classic inhibitor binding spectra. Inhibition of CaCYP51 activity in a cell-free assay demonstrated that prothioconazole-desthio is active, whereas prothioconazole does not inhibit CYP51 activity. Extracts from C. albicans grown in the presence of prothioconazole were found to contain prothioconazole-desthio. We conclude that the antifungal action of prothioconazole can be attributed to prothioconazole-desthio.
Candida albicans CYP51 (CaCYP51) (Erg11), full-length Homo sapiens CYP51 (HsCYP51), and truncated Δ60HsCYP51 were expressed in Escherichia coli and purified to homogeneity. CaCYP51 and both HsCYP51 enzymes bound lanosterol (Ks, 14 to 18 μM) and catalyzed the 14α-demethylation of lanosterol using Homo sapiens cytochrome P450 reductase and NADPH as redox partners. Both HsCYP51 enzymes bound clotrimazole, itraconazole, and ketoconazole tightly (dissociation constants [Kds], 42 to 131 nM) but bound fluconazole (Kd, ∼30,500 nM) and voriconazole (Kd, ∼2,300 nM) weakly, whereas CaCYP51 bound all five medical azole drugs tightly (Kds, 10 to 56 nM). Selectivity for CaCYP51 over HsCYP51 ranged from 2-fold (clotrimazole) to 540-fold (fluconazole) among the medical azoles. In contrast, selectivity for CaCYP51 over Δ60HsCYP51 with agricultural azoles ranged from 3-fold (tebuconazole) to 9-fold (propiconazole). Prothioconazole bound extremely weakly to CaCYP51 and Δ60HsCYP51, producing atypical type I UV-visible difference spectra (Kds, 6,100 and 910 nM, respectively), indicating that binding was not accomplished through direct coordination with the heme ferric ion. Prothioconazole-desthio (the intracellular derivative of prothioconazole) bound tightly to both CaCYP51 and Δ60HsCYP51 (Kd, ∼40 nM). These differences in binding affinities were reflected in the observed 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) values, which were 9- to 2,000-fold higher for Δ60HsCYP51 than for CaCYP51, with the exception of tebuconazole, which strongly inhibited both CYP51 enzymes. In contrast, prothioconazole weakly inhibited CaCYP51 (IC50, ∼150 μM) and did not significantly inhibit Δ60HsCYP51.
Lanosterol 14α-demethylase (CYP51F1) from Candida albicans is known to be an essential enzyme in fungal sterol biosynthesis. Wild-type CYP51F1 and several of its mutants were heterologously expressed in Escherichia coli, purified, and characterized. It exhibited a typical reduced CO-difference spectrum with a maximum at 446 nm. Reconstitution of CYP51F1 with NADPH-P450 reductase gave a system that successfully converted lanosterol to its demethylated product. Titration of the purified enzyme with lanosterol produced a typical type I spectral change with Kd = 6.7 μM. The azole antifungal agents econazole, fluconazole, ketoconazole, and itraconazole bound tightly to CYP51F1 with Kd values between 0.06 – 0.42 μM. The CYP51F1 mutations F105L, D116E, Y132H, and R467K frequently identified in clinical isolates were examined to determine their effect on azole drug binding affinity. The azole Kd values of the purified F105L, D116E, and R467K mutants were little altered. A homology model of C. albicans CYP51F1 suggested that Tyr132 in the BC loop is located close to the heme in the active site, providing a rationale for the modified heme environment caused by the Y132H substitution. Taken together, functional expression and characterization of CYP51F1 provide a starting basis for design of agents effective against C. albicans infections.
P450; CYP51; lanosterol; azole; Candida albicans
Invasive infections caused by Candida krusei are a significant concern because this organism is intrinsically resistant to fluconazole. Voriconazole is more active than fluconazole against C. krusei in vitro. One mechanism of fluconazole resistance in C. krusei is diminished sensitivity of the target enzyme, cytochrome P450 sterol 14α-demethylase (CYP51), to inhibition by this drug. We investigated the interactions of fluconazole and voriconazole with the CYP51s of C. krusei (ckCYP51) and fluconazole-susceptible Candida albicans (caCYP51). We found that voriconazole was a more potent inhibitor of both ckCYP51 and caCYP51 in cell extracts than was fluconazole. Also, the ckCYP51 was less sensitive to inhibition by both drugs than was caCYP51. These results were confirmed by expressing the CYP51 genes from C. krusei and C. albicans in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and determining the susceptibility of the transformants to voriconazole and fluconazole. We constructed homology models of the CYP51s of C. albicans and C. krusei based on the crystal structure of CYP51 from Mycobacterium tuberculosis. These models predicted that voriconazole is a more potent inhibitor of both caCYP51 and ckCYP51 than is fluconazole, because the extra methyl group of voriconazole results in a stronger hydrophobic interaction with the aromatic amino acids in the substrate binding site and more extensive filling of this site. Although there are multiple differences in the predicted amino acid sequence of caCYP51 and ckCYP51, the models of the two enzymes were quite similar and the mechanism for the relative resistance of ckCYP51 to the azoles was not apparent.
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.
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.
The cytochrome P450 sterol 14α-demethylase (CYP51) of Candida albicans is involved in an essential step of ergosterol biosynthesis and is the target for azole antifungal compounds. We have undertaken site-directed mutation of C. albicans CYP51 to produce a recombinant mutant protein with the amino acid substitution R467K corresponding to a mutation observed clinically. This alteration perturbed the heme environment causing an altered reduced-carbon monoxide difference spectrum with a maximum at 452 nm and reduced the affinity of the enzyme for fluconazole, as shown by ligand binding studies. The specific activity of CYP51(R467K) for the release of formic acid from 3β-[32-3H]hydroxylanost-7-en-32-ol was 70 pmol/nmol of P450/min for microsomal protein compared to 240 pmol/nmol of P450/min for microsomal fractions expressing wild-type CYP51. Furthermore, inhibition of activity by fluconazole revealed a 7.5-fold-greater azole resistance of the recombinant protein than that of the wild type. This study demonstrates that resistance observed clinically can result from the altered azole affinity of the fungal CYP51 enzyme.
In the fungal pathogen Candida albicans, amino acid substitutions of 14alpha-demethylase (CaErg11p, CaCYP51) are associated with azole antifungals resistance. This is an area of research which is very dynamic, since the stakes concern the screening of new antifungals which circumvent resistance. The impact of amino acid substitutions on azole interaction has been postulated by homology modeling in comparison to the crystal structure of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MT-CYP51). Modeling of amino acid residues situated between positions 428 to 459 remains difficult to explain to date, because they are in a major insertion loop specifically present in fungal species.
Fluconazole resistance of clinical isolates displaying Y447H and V456I novel CaErg11p substitutions confirmed in vivo in a murine model of disseminated candidiasis. Y447H and V456I implication into fluconazole resistance was then studied by site-directed mutagenesis of wild-type CaErg11p and by heterogeneously expression into the Pichia pastoris model. CLSI modified tests showed that V447H and V456I are responsible for an 8-fold increase in fluconazole MICs of P. pastoris mutants compared to the wild-type controls. Moreover, mutants showed a sustained capacity for producing ergosterol, even in the presence of fluconazole. Based on these biological results, we are the first to propose a hybrid homology structure-function model of Ca-CYP51 using 3 different homology modeling programs. The variable position of the protein insertion loop, using different liganded or non-liganded templates of recently solved CYP51 structures, suggests its inherent flexibility. Mapping of recognized azole-resistant substitutions indicated that the flexibility of this region is probably enhanced by the relatively high glycine content of the consensus.
The results highlight the potential role of the insertion loop in azole resistance in the human pathogen C. albicans. This new data should be taken into consideration for future studies aimed at designing new antifungal agents, which circumvent azole resistance.
Inhibition of sterol-14α-demethylase, a cytochrome P450 (CYP51, Erg11p), is the mode of action of azole antifungal drugs, and with high frequencies of fungal infections new agents are required. New drugs that target fungal CYP51 should not inhibit human CYP51, although selective inhibitors of the human target are also of interest as anticholesterol agents. A strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae that was humanized with respect to the amino acids encoded at the CYP51 (ERG11) yeast locus (BY4741:huCYP51) was produced. The strain was validated with respect to gene expression, protein localization, growth characteristics, and sterol content. The MIC was determined and compared to that for the wild-type parental strain (BY4741), using clotrimazole, econazole, fluconazole, itraconazole, ketoconazole, miconazole, and voriconazole. The humanized strain showed up to >1,000-fold-reduced susceptibility to the orally active azole drugs, while the topical agents showed no difference. Data from growth kinetic measurements substantiated this finding but also revealed reduced effectiveness against the humanized strain for the topical drugs. Cellular sterol profiles reflected the decreased susceptibility of BY4741:huCYP51 and showed a smaller depletion of ergosterol and accumulation of 14α-methyl-ergosta-8, 24(28)-dien-3β-6α-diol than the parental strain under the same treatment conditions. This strain provides a useful tool for initial specificity testing for new drugs targeting CYP51 and clearly differentiates azole antifungals in a side-by-side comparison.
Azoles target the ergosterol biosynthetic enzyme lanosterol 14α-demethylase and are a widely applied class of antifungal agents because of their broad therapeutic window, wide spectrum of activity, and low toxicity. Unfortunately, azoles are generally fungistatic and resistance to fluconazole is emerging in several fungal pathogens. We recently established that the protein phosphatase calcineurin allows survival of Candida albicans during the membrane stress exerted by azoles. The calcineurin inhibitors cyclosporine A (CsA) and tacrolimus (FK506) are dramatically synergistic with azoles, resulting in potent fungicidal activity, and mutant strains lacking calcineurin are markedly hypersensitive to azoles. Here we establish that drugs targeting other enzymes in the ergosterol biosynthetic pathway (terbinafine and fenpropimorph) also exhibit dramatic synergistic antifungal activity against wild-type C. albicans when used in conjunction with CsA and FK506. Similarly, C. albicans mutant strains lacking calcineurin B are markedly hypersensitive to terbinafine and fenpropimorph. The FK506 binding protein FKBP12 is required for FK506 synergism with ergosterol biosynthesis inhibitors, and a calcineurin mutation that confers FK506 resistance abolishes drug synergism. Additionally, we provide evidence of drug synergy between the nonimmunosuppressive FK506 analog L-685,818 and fenpropimorph or terbinafine against wild-type C. albicans. These drug combinations also exert synergistic effects against two other Candida species, C. glabrata and C. krusei, which are known for intrinsic or rapidly acquired resistance to azoles. These studies demonstrate that the activity of non-azole antifungal agents that target ergosterol biosynthesis can be enhanced by inhibition of the calcineurin signaling pathway, extending their spectrum of action and providing an alternative approach by which to overcome antifungal drug resistance.
Two isolates of Candida glabrata, one susceptible and one resistant to azole antifungals, were previously shown to differ in quantity and activity of the cytochrome P-450 14alpha-lanosterol demethylase which is the target for azole antifungals. The resistant isolate also had a lower intracellular level of fluconazole, but not of ketoconazole or itraconazole, than the susceptible isolate. In the present study a 3.7-fold increase in the copy number of the CYP51 gene, encoding the 14alpha-lanosterol demethylase, was found. The amount of CYP51 mRNA transcript in the resistant isolate was eight times greater than it was in the susceptible isolate. Hybridization experiments on chromosomal blots indicated that this increase in copy number was due to duplication of the entire chromosome containing the CYP51 gene. The phenotypic instability of the resistant isolate was demonstrated genotypically: a gradual loss of the duplicated chromosome was seen in successive subcultures of the isolate in fluconazole-free medium and correlated with reversion to susceptibility. The greater abundance of the amplified chromosome induced pronounced differences in the protein patterns of the susceptible and revertant isolates versus that of the resistant isolate, as demonstrated by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2D-GE). Densitometry of the 2D-GE product indicated upregulation of at least 25 proteins and downregulation of at least 76 proteins in the resistant isolate.
The role of sterol mutations in the resistance of Candida albicans to antifungal agents has not been thoroughly investigated. Previous work reported that clinical C. albicans strains resistant to both azole antifungals and amphotericin B were defective in ERG3, a gene encoding sterol Δ5,6-desaturase. It is also believed that a deletion of the lanosterol 14α-demethylase gene, ERG11, is possible only under aerobic conditions when ERG3 is not functional. We tested these hypotheses by creating mutants by targeted deletion of the ERG3 and ERG11 genes and subjecting those mutants to antifungal susceptibility testing and sterol analysis. The homozygous erg3/erg3 mutant created, DSY1751, was resistant to azole derivatives, as expected. This mutant was, however, slightly more susceptible to amphotericin B than the parent wild type. It was possible to generate erg11/erg11 mutants in the DSY1751 background but also, surprisingly, in the background of a wild-type isolate with functional ERG3 alleles under aerobic conditions. This mutant (DSY1769) was obtained by exposure of an ERG11/erg11 heterozygous strain in a medium containing 10 μg of amphotericin B per ml. Amphotericin B-resistant strains were obtained only from ERG11/erg11 heterozygotes at a frequency of approximately 5 × 10−5 to 7 × 10−5, which was consistent with mitotic recombination between the first disrupted erg11 allele and the other remaining functional ERG11 allele. DSY1769 was also resistant to azole derivatives. The main sterol fraction in DSY1769 contained lanosterol and eburicol. These studies showed that erg11/erg11 mutants of a C. albicans strain harboring a defective erg11 allele can be obtained in vitro in the presence of amphotericin B. Amphotericin B-resistant strains could therefore be selected by similar mechanisms during antifungal therapy.
The sterol 14-demethylase P450 (CYP51) of a fluconazole-resistant isolate of Candida albicans, DUMC136, showed reduced susceptibility to this azole but with little change in its catalytic activity. Twelve nucleotide substitutions, resulting in four amino acid changes, were identified in the DUMC136 CYP51 gene in comparison with a reported CYP51 sequence from a wild-type, fluconazole-susceptible C. albicans strain. Seven of these substitutions, including all of those causing amino acid changes, were located within a region covering one of the putative substrate recognition sites of the enzyme (SRS-1). Polymorphisms within this region were observed in several C. albicans isolates, and some were found to be CYP51 heterozygotes. Among the amino acid changes occurring in this region, only an alteration of Y132 was common among these fluconazole-resistant isolates, which suggests the importance of this residue to the fluconazole resistance of the target enzyme. DUMC136 and another fluconazole-resistant isolate were homozygotes with respect to CYP51, although the typical wild-type, fluconazole-susceptible C. albicans was a CYP51 heterozygote. These findings suggest that part of the fluconazole-resistant phenotype of C. albicans DUMC136 was acquired through a mutation-prone area of CYP51, an area which might promote the formation of fluconazole-resistant CYP51, along with a mechanism(s) which allows the formation of a homozygote of this altered CYP51 in this diploid pathogenic yeast.
The cytochrome P-450 lanosterol 14α-demethylase (CYP51A1) of yeasts is involved in an important step in the biosynthesis of ergosterol. Since CYP51A1 is the target of azole antifungal agents, this enzyme is potentially prone to alterations leading to resistance to these agents. Among them, a decrease in the affinity of CYP51A1 for these agents is possible. We showed in a group of Candida albicans isolates from AIDS patients that multidrug efflux transporters were playing an important role in the resistance of C. albicans to azole antifungal agents, but without excluding the involvement of other factors (D. Sanglard, K. Kuchler, F. Ischer, J.-L. Pagani, M. Monod, and J. Bille, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 39:2378–2386, 1995). We therefore analyzed in closer detail changes in the affinity of CYP51A1 for azole antifungal agents. A strategy consisting of functional expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae of the C. albicans CYP51A1 genes of sequential clinical isolates from patients was designed. This selection, which was coupled with a test of susceptibility to the azole derivatives fluconazole, ketoconazole, and itraconazole, enabled the detection of mutations in different cloned CYP51A1 genes, whose products are potentially affected in their affinity for azole derivatives. This selection enabled the detection of five different mutations in the cloned CYP51A1 genes which correlated with the occurrence of azole resistance in clinical C. albicans isolates. These mutations were as follows: replacement of the glycine at position 129 with alanine (G129A), Y132H, S405F, G464S, and R467K. While the S405F mutation was found as a single amino acid substitution in a CYP51A1 gene from an azole-resistant yeast, other mutations were found simultaneously in individual CYP51A1 genes, i.e., R467K with G464S, S405F with Y132H, G129A with G464S, and R467K with G464S and Y132H. Site-directed mutagenesis of a wild-type CYP51A1 gene was performed to estimate the effect of each of these mutations on resistance to azole derivatives. Each single mutation, with the exception of G129A, had a measurable effect on the affinity of the target enzyme for specific azole derivatives. We speculate that these specific mutations could combine with the effect of multidrug efflux transporters in the clinical isolates and contribute to different patterns and stepwise increases in resistance to azole derivatives.
In the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans, the zinc cluster transcription factor Upc2p has been shown to regulate the expression of ERG11 and other genes involved in ergosterol biosynthesis upon exposure to azole antifungals. ERG11 encodes lanosterol demethylase, the target enzyme of this antifungal class. Overexpression of UPC2 reduces azole susceptibility, whereas its disruption results in hypersusceptibility to azoles and reduced accumulation of exogenous sterols. Overexpression of ERG11 leads to the increased production of lanosterol demethylase, which contributes to azole resistance in clinical isolates of C. albicans, but the mechanism for this has yet to be determined. Using genome-wide gene expression profiling, we found UPC2 and other genes involved in ergosterol biosynthesis to be coordinately upregulated with ERG11 in a fluconazole-resistant clinical isolate compared with a matched susceptible isolate from the same patient. Sequence analysis of the UPC2 alleles of these isolates revealed that the resistant isolate contained a single-nucleotide substitution in one UPC2 allele that resulted in a G648D exchange in the encoded protein. Introduction of the mutated allele into a drug-susceptible strain resulted in constitutive upregulation of ERG11 and increased resistance to fluconazole. By comparing the gene expression profiles of the fluconazole-resistant isolate and of strains carrying wild-type and mutated UPC2 alleles, we identified target genes that are controlled by Upc2p. Here we show for the first time that a gain-of-function mutation in UPC2 leads to the increased expression of ERG11 and imparts resistance to fluconazole in clinical isolates of C. albicans.
Aspergillus fumigatus sterol 14-α demethylase (CYP51) isoenzymes A (AF51A) and B (AF51B) were expressed in Escherichia coli and purified. The dithionite-reduced CO-P450 complex for AF51A was unstable, rapidly denaturing to inactive P420, in marked contrast to AF51B, where the CO-P450 complex was stable. Type I substrate binding spectra were obtained with purified AF51B using lanosterol (Ks, 8.6 μM) and eburicol (Ks, 22.6 μM). Membrane suspensions of AF51A bound to both lanosterol (Ks, 3.1 μM) and eburicol (Ks, 4.1 μM). The binding of azoles, with the exception of fluconazole, to AF51B was tight, with the Kd (dissociation constant) values for clotrimazole, itraconazole, posaconazole, and voriconazole being 0.21, 0.06, 0.12, and 0.42 μM, respectively, in comparison with a Kd value of 4 μM for fluconazole. Characteristic type II azole binding spectra were obtained with AF51B, whereas an additional trough and a blue-shifted spectral peak were present in AF51A binding spectra for all azoles except clotrimazole. This suggests two distinct azole binding conformations within the heme prosthetic group of AF51A. All five azoles bound relatively weakly to AF51A, with Kd values ranging from 1 μM for itraconazole to 11.9 μM for fluconazole. The azole binding properties of purified AF51A and AF51B suggest an explanation for the intrinsic azole (fluconazole) resistance observed in Aspergillus fumigatus.
Infections due to Candida albicans are usually treated with azole antifungals such as fluconazole, but treatment failure is not uncommon especially in immunocompromised individuals. Relatedly, in vitro studies demonstrate that azoles are nonfungicidal, with continued growth at strain-dependent rates even at high azole concentrations. We hypothesized that upregulation of ERG11, which encodes the azole target enzyme lanosterol demethylase, contributes to this azole tolerance in Candida species. RNA analysis revealed that ERG11 expression in C. albicans is maximal during logarithmic-phase growth and decreases as the cells approach stationary phase. Incubation with fluconazole, however, resulted in a two- to fivefold increase in ERG11 RNA levels within 2 to 3 h, and this increase was followed by resumption of culture growth. ERG11 upregulation also occurred following treatment with other azoles (itraconazole, ketoconazole, clotrimazole, and miconazole) and was not dependent on the specific medium or pH. Within 1 h of drug removal ERG11 upregulation was reversed. Azole-dependent upregulation was not limited to ERG11: five of five ERG genes tested whose products function upstream and downstream of lanosterol demethylase in the sterol biosynthetic pathway were also upregulated. Similarly, ERG11 upregulation occurred following treatment of C. albicans cultures with terbinafine and fenpropimorph, which target other enzymes in the pathway. These data suggest a common mechanism for global ERG upregulation, e.g., in response to ergosterol depletion. Finally, azole-dependent ERG11 upregulation was demonstrated in three additional Candida species (C. tropicalis, C. glabrata, and C. krusei), indicating a conserved response to sterol biosynthesis inhibitors in opportunistic yeasts.
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.
Sterol Δ22-desaturase has been purified from a strain of Candida glabrata with a disruption in the gene encoding sterol 14α-demethylase (cytochrome P-45051; CYP51). The purified cytochrome P-450 exhibited sterol Δ22-desaturase activity in a reconstituted system with NADPH–cytochrome P-450 reductase in dilaurylphosphatidylcholine, with the enzyme kinetic studies revealing a Km for ergosta-5,7-dienol of 12.5 μM and a Vmax of 0.59 nmol of this substrate metabolized/min/nmol of P-450. This enzyme is encoded by CYP61 (ERG5) in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and homologues have been shown in the Candida albicans and Schizosaccharomyces pombe genome projects. Ketoconazole, itraconazole, and fluconazole formed low-spin complexes with the ferric cytochrome and exhibited type II spectra, which are indicative of an interaction between the azole moiety and the cytochrome heme. The azole antifungal compounds inhibited reconstituted sterol Δ22-desaturase activity by binding to the cytochrome with a one-to-one stoichiometry, with total inhibition of enzyme activity occurring when equimolar amounts of azole and cytochrome P-450 were added. These results reveal the potential for sterol Δ22-desaturase to be an antifungal target and to contribute to the binding of drugs within the fungal cell.
Molecular mechanisms of azole resistance in Candida albicans, including alterations in the target enzyme and increased efflux of drug, have been described, but the epidemiology of the resistance mechanisms has not been established. We have investigated the molecular mechanisms of resistance to azoles in C. albicans strains displaying high-level fluconazole resistance (MICs, ≥64 μg/ml) isolated from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients with oropharyngeal candidiasis. The levels of expression of genes encoding lanosterol 14α-demethylase (ERG11) and efflux transporters (MDR1 and CDR) implicated in azole resistance were monitored in matched sets of susceptible and resistant isolates. In addition, ERG11 genes were amplified by PCR, and their nucleotide sequences were determined in order to detect point mutations with a possible effect in the affinity for azoles. The analysis confirmed the multifactorial nature of azole resistance and the prevalence of these mechanisms of resistance in C. albicans clinical isolates exhibiting frank fluconazole resistance, with a predominance of overexpression of genes encoding efflux pumps, detected in 85% of all resistant isolates, being found. Alterations in the target enzyme, including functional amino acid substitutions and overexpression of the gene that encodes the enzyme, were detected in 65 and 35% of the isolates, respectively. Overall, multiple mechanisms of resistance were combined in 75% of the isolates displaying high-level fluconazole resistance. These results may help in the development of new strategies to overcome the problem of resistance as well as new treatments for this condition.
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.
We identified a clinical isolate of Candida glabrata (CG156) exhibiting flocculent growth and cross-resistance to fluconazole (FLC), voriconazole (VRC), and amphotericin B (AMB), with MICs of >256, >256, and 32 μg ml−1, respectively. Sterol analysis using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) revealed that CG156 was a sterol 14α-demethylase (Erg11p) mutant, wherein 14α-methylated intermediates (lanosterol was >80% of the total) were the only detectable sterols. ERG11 sequencing indicated that CG156 harbored a single-amino-acid substitution (G315D) which nullified the function of native Erg11p. In heterologous expression studies using a doxycycline-regulatable Saccharomyces cerevisiae erg11 strain, wild-type C. glabrata Erg11p fully complemented the function of S. cerevisiae sterol 14α-demethylase, restoring growth and ergosterol synthesis in recombinant yeast; mutated CG156 Erg11p did not. CG156 was culturable using sterol-free, glucose-containing yeast minimal medium (glcYM). However, when grown on sterol-supplemented glcYM (with ergosta 7,22-dienol, ergosterol, cholestanol, cholesterol, Δ7-cholestenol, or desmosterol), CG156 cultures exhibited shorter lag phases, reached higher cell densities, and showed alterations in cellular sterol composition. Unlike comparator isolates (harboring wild-type ERG11) that became less sensitive to FLC and VRC when cultured on sterol-supplemented glcYM, facultative sterol uptake by CG156 did not affect its azole-resistant phenotype. Conversely, CG156 grown using glcYM with ergosterol (or with ergosta 7,22-dienol) showed increased sensitivity to AMB; CG156 grown using glcYM with cholesterol (or with cholestanol) became more resistant (MICs of 2 and >64 μg AMB ml−1, respectively). Our results provide insights into the consequences of sterol uptake and metabolism on growth and antifungal resistance in C. glabrata.
Metal complexes of dichloro-tetramorpholino-cyclophosphazatriene containing divalent cations
such as Ni(II), Co(II), and Mn(II) have been prepared and characterised by standard physico-chemical
procedures (elemental chemical analysis, IR and UV-VIS spectra, conductimetric measurement). The newly
synthesised compounds possessed antifungal activity against Aspergillus and Candida spp., some of them
showing effects comparable to ketoconazole (with minimum inhibitory concentrations in the range of 2- 30
μg/mL) but being generally less active as compared to the azole. Best activity was detected against C.
albicans, and worst activity against A. niger. The mechanism of action of these compounds probably
involves inhibition of ergosterol biosynthesis, and interaction with lanosterol-14-α-demethylase (CYP51A1),
since reduced amounts of ergosterol were evidenced by means of HPLC in cultures of the sensitive strain A. niger treated with some of these inhibitors.
► 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