The resistance mechanisms to azole antifungal agents were investigated in this study with two pairs of Candida glabrata clinical isolates recovered from two separate AIDS patients. The two pairs each contained a fluconazole-susceptible isolate and a fluconazole-resistant isolate, the latter with cross-resistance to itraconazole and ketoconazole. Since the accumulation of fluconazole and of another unrelated substance, rhodamine 6G, was reduced in the azole-resistant isolates, enhanced drug efflux was considered as a possible resistance mechanism. The expression of multidrug efflux transporter genes was therefore examined in the azole-susceptible and azole-resistant yeast isolates. For this purpose, C. glabrata genes conferring resistance to azole antifungals were cloned in a Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain in which the ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporter gene PDR5 was deleted. Three different genes were recovered, and among them, only C. glabrata CDR1 (CgCDR1), a gene similar to the Candida albicans ABC transporter CDR genes, was upregulated by a factor of 5 to 8 in the azole-resistant isolates. A correlation between upregulation of this gene and azole resistance was thus established. The deletion of CgCDR1 in an azole-resistant C. glabrata clinical isolate rendered the resulting mutant (DSY1041) susceptible to azole derivatives as the azole-susceptible clinical parent, thus providing genetic evidence that a specific mechanism was involved in the azole resistance of a clinical isolate. When CgCDR1 obtained from an azole-susceptible isolate was reintroduced with the help of a centromeric vector in DSY1041, azole resistance was restored and thus suggested that a trans-acting mutation(s) could be made responsible for the increased expression of this ABC transporter gene in the azole-resistant strain. This study demonstrates for the first time the determinant role of an ABC transporter gene in the acquisition of resistance to azole antifungals by C. glabrata clinical isolates.
The increasing use of azole antifungals for the treatment of mucosal and systemic Candida glabrata infections has resulted in the selection and/or emergence of resistant strains. The main mechanisms of azole resistance include alterations in the C. glabrata ERG11 gene (CgERG11), which encodes the azole target enzyme, and upregulation of the CgCDR1 and CgCDR2 genes, which encode efflux pumps. In the present study, we evaluated these molecular mechanisms in 29 unmatched clinical isolates of C. glabrata, of which 20 isolates were resistant and 9 were susceptible dose dependent (S-DD) to fluconazole. These isolates were recovered from separate patients during a 3-year hospital survey for antifungal resistance. Four of the 20 fluconazole-resistant isolates were analyzed together with matched susceptible isolates previously taken from the same patients. Twenty other azole-susceptible clinical C. glabrata isolates were included as controls. MIC data for all the fluconazole-resistant isolates revealed extensive cross-resistance to the other azoles tested, i.e., itraconazole, ketoconazole, and voriconazole. Quantitative real-time PCR analyses showed that CgCDR1 and CgCDR2, alone or in combination, were upregulated at high levels in all but two fluconazole-resistant isolates and, to a lesser extent, in the fluconazole-S-DD isolates. In addition, slight increases in the relative level of expression of CgSNQ2 (which encodes an ATP-binding cassette [ABC] transporter and which has not yet been shown to be associated with azole resistance) were seen in some of the 29 isolates studied. Interestingly, the two fluconazole-resistant isolates expressing normal levels of CgCDR1 and CgCDR2 exhibited increased levels of expression of CgSNQ2. Conversely, sequencing of CgERG11 and analysis of its expression showed no mutation or upregulation in any C. glabrata isolate, suggesting that CgERG11 is not involved in azole resistance. When the isolates were grown in the presence of fluconazole, the profiles of expression of all genes, including CgERG11, were not changed or were only minimally changed in the resistant isolates, whereas marked increases in the levels of gene expression, particularly for CgCDR1 and CgCDR2, were observed in either the fluconazole-susceptible or the fluconazole-S-DD isolates. Finally, known ABC transporter inhibitors, such as FK506, were able to reverse the azole resistance of all the isolates. Together, these results provide evidence that the upregulation of the CgCDR1-, CgCDR2-, and CgSNQ2-encoded efflux pumps might explain the azole resistance in our set of isolates.
CgPdr1p is a Candida glabrata Zn(2)-Cys(6) transcription factor involved in the regulation of the ABC-transporter genes CgCDR1, CgCDR2, and CgSNQ2, which are mediators of azole resistance. Single-point mutations in CgPDR1 are known to increase the expression of at least CgCDR1 and CgCDR2 and thus to contribute to azole resistance of clinical isolates. In this study, we investigated the incidence of CgPDR1 mutations in a large collection of clinical isolates and tested their relevance, not only to azole resistance in vitro and in vivo, but also to virulence. The comparison of CgPDR1 alleles from azole-susceptible and azole-resistant matched isolates enabled the identification of 57 amino acid substitutions, each positioned in distinct CgPDR1 alleles. These substitutions, which could be grouped into three different “hot spots,” were gain of function (GOF) mutations since they conferred hyperactivity to CgPdr1p revealed by constitutive high expression of ABC-transporter genes. Interestingly, the major transporters involved in azole resistance (CgCDR1, CgCDR2, and CgSNQ2) were not always coordinately expressed in presence of specific CgPDR1 GOF mutations, thus suggesting that these are rather trans-acting elements (GOF in CgPDR1) than cis-acting elements (promoters) that lead to azole resistance by upregulating specific combinations of ABC-transporter genes. Moreover, C. glabrata isolates complemented with CgPDR1 hyperactive alleles were not only more virulent in mice than those with wild type alleles, but they also gained fitness in the same animal model. The presence of CgPDR1 hyperactive alleles also contributed to fluconazole treatment failure in the mouse model. In conclusion, this study shows for the first time that CgPDR1 mutations are not only responsible for in vitro/in vivo azole resistance but that they can also confer a selective advantage under host conditions.
Candida glabrata is a yeast causing several diseases in humans and especially in immuno-compromised people. C. glabrata infections are treated with antifungal agents, however the use of some agents, for example azoles, is associated with the development of resistance. In this yeast species, azole resistance is mediated almost exclusively by ATP Binding Cassette (ABC) multidrug transporters. Their overexpression results in enhanced efflux of azoles and thus generates resistance. Regulation of ABC transporters is therefore of pivotal importance to understanding azole resistance. In C. glabrata, the expression of ABC transporters is mediated by a zinc finger transcription factor called CgPDR1. Gain of function (GOF) mutations in CgPDR1 result in high ABC transporter expression. In this study, we investigated the occurrence of GOF mutations in a large collection of azole-resistant isolates and found a high variety of mutations localized in three distinct domains of CgPDR1. We found that these mutations are not only associated with resistance but also enhanced virulence and fitness of C. glabrata in animal models. Our study provides for the first time evidence that mutations causing antifungal resistance can also provide a selective advantage under host conditions and thus highlights the need of carefully monitoring resistance in this pathogen.
Candida glabrata has become one of the most common causes of Candida bloodstream infections worldwide. Some strains of C. glabrata may be intermediately resistant to all azoles. The several possible mechanisms of azole resistance have been reported previously, but the exact resistant mechanism is not clear. In this study, we identified differentially expressed genes (DEGs) of fluconazole-resistant C. glabrata and compared the gene expression of fluconazole-resistant strains with that of fluconazole-susceptible strains to identify gene corresponding to fluconazole resistance.
Using antifungal susceptibility test, several C. glabrata strains were selected and used for further study. The expression of CgCDR1 and CgCDR2 genes was investigated by slot hybridization against fluconazole-susceptible, -resistant, and resistant-induced strains. In addition, ERG3 and ERG11 genes were sequenced to analyze DNA base substitution. DEGs were identified by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction using DEG kit composed of 120 random primers.
In slot hybridization, CgCDR1 gene was expressed more than CgCDR2 gene in resistant strains. Though base substitution of ERG11 and ERG3 genes was observed in several base sequences, just one amino acid change was identified in resistant strain. In the results of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, 44 genes were upregulated and 34 genes were downregulated. Among them, adenosine triphosphate-binding cassette transporter-related genes, fatty acid desaturase, lyase, and hypothetical protein genes were upregulated and aldehyde dehydrogenase, oxidoreductase, and prohibitin-like protein genes were downregulated. Other DEGs were also identified.
This study showed that CgCDR1 gene was more closely related to fluconazole resistance of C. glabrata than CgCDR2 gene. In addition, several other genes related with fluconazole resistance of C. glabrata were identified.
CgCDR1; CgCDR2; Candida glabrata; fluconazole resistance; gene identification
Existing antifungal agents are still confronted to activities limited to specific fungal species and to the development of resistance. Several improvements are possible either by tackling and overcoming resistance or exacerbating the activity of existing antifungal agents. In Candida glabrata, azole resistance is almost exclusively mediated by ABC transporters (including C. glabrata CDR1 [CgCDR1] and CgCDR2) via gain-of-function mutations in the transcriptional activator CgPDR1 or by mitochondrial dysfunctions. We also observed that azole resistance was correlating with increasing virulence and fitness of C. glabrata in animal models of infection. This observation motivated the re-exploitation of ABC transporter inhibitors as a possible therapeutic intervention to decrease not only the development of azole resistance but also to interfere with the virulence of C. glabrata. Milbemycins are known ABC transporter inhibitors, and here we used commercially available milbemycin A3/A4 oxim derivatives to verify this effect. As expected, the derivatives were inhibiting C. glabrata efflux with the highest activity for A3 oxim below 1 μg/ml. More surprising was that oxim derivatives had intrinsic fungicidal activity above 3.2 μg/ml, thus highlighting effects additional to the efflux inhibition. Similar values were obtained with C. albicans. Our data show that the fungicidal activity could be related to reactive oxygen species formation in these species. Transcriptional analysis performed both in C. glabrata and C. albicans exposed to A3 oxim highlighted a core of commonly regulated genes involved in stress responses, including genes involved in oxidoreductive processes, protein ubiquitination, and vesicle trafficking, as well as mitogen-activated protein kinases. However, the transcript profiles contained also species-specific signatures. Following these observations, experimental treatments of invasive infections were performed in mice treated with the commercial A3/A4 oxim preparation alone or in combination with fluconazole. Tissue burden analysis revealed that oxims on their own were able to decrease fungal burdens in both Candida species. In azole-resistant isolates, oxims acted synergistically in vivo with fluconazole to reduce fungal burden to levels of azole-susceptible isolates. In conclusion, we show here the potential of milbemycins not only as drug efflux inhibitors but also as effective fungal growth inhibitors in C. glabrata and C. albicans.
In Candida glabrata, the transcription factor CgPdr1 is involved
in resistance to azole antifungals via upregulation of ATP binding cassette
(ABC)-transporter genes including at least CgCDR1,
CgCDR2 and CgSNQ2. A high diversity of GOF
(gain-of-function) mutations in CgPDR1 exists for the
upregulation of ABC-transporters. These mutations enhance C.
glabrata virulence in animal models, thus indicating that
CgPDR1 might regulate the expression of yet unidentified
virulence factors. We hypothesized that CgPdr1-dependent virulence factor(s)
should be commonly regulated by all GOF mutations in CgPDR1. As
deduced from transcript profiling with microarrays, a high number of genes (up
to 385) were differentially regulated by a selected number (7) of GOF mutations
expressed in the same genetic background. Surprisingly, the transcriptional
profiles resulting from expression of GOF mutations showed minimal overlap in
co-regulated genes. Only two genes, CgCDR1 and
PUP1 (for PDR1
upregulated and encoding a mitochondrial protein), were
commonly upregulated by all tested GOFs. While both genes mediated azole
resistance, although to different extents, their deletions in an azole-resistant
isolate led to a reduction of virulence and decreased tissue burden as compared
to clinical parents. As expected from their role in C. glabrata
virulence, the two genes were expressed as well in vitro and
in vivo. The individual overexpression of these two genes
in a CgPDR1-independent manner could partially restore
phenotypes obtained in clinical isolates. These data therefore demonstrate that
at least these two CgPDR1-dependent and -upregulated genes
contribute to the enhanced virulence of C. glabrata that
acquired azole resistance.
Mitochondrial dysfunction is one of the possible mechanisms by which azole resistance can occur in Candida glabrata. Cells with mitochondrial DNA deficiency (so-called “petite mutants”) upregulate ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporter genes and thus display increased resistance to azoles. Isolation of such C. glabrata mutants from patients receiving antifungal therapy or prophylaxis has been rarely reported. In this study, we characterized two sequential and related C. glabrata isolates recovered from the same patient undergoing azole therapy. The first isolate (BPY40) was azole susceptible (fluconazole MIC, 4 μg/ml), and the second (BPY41) was azole resistant (fluconazole MIC, >256 μg/ml). BPY41 exhibited mitochondrial dysfunction and upregulation of the ABC transporter genes C. glabrata CDR1 (CgCDR1), CgCDR2, and CgSNQ2. We next assessed whether mitochondrial dysfunction conferred a selective advantage during host infection by testing the virulence of BPY40 and BPY41 in mice. Surprisingly, even with in vitro growth deficiency compared to BPY40, BPY41 was more virulent (as judged by mortality and fungal tissue burden) than BPY40 in both systemic and vaginal murine infection models. The increased virulence of the petite mutant correlated with a drastic gain of fitness in mice compared to that of its parental isolate. To understand this unexpected feature, genome-wide changes in gene expression driven by the petite mutation were analyzed by use of microarrays during in vitro growth. Enrichment of specific biological processes (oxido-reductive metabolism and the stress response) was observed in BPY41, all of which was consistent with mitochondrial dysfunction. Finally, some genes involved in cell wall remodelling were upregulated in BPY41 compared to BPY40, which may partially explain the enhanced virulence of BPY41. In conclusion, this study shows for the first time that mitochondrial dysfunction selected in vivo under azole therapy, even if strongly affecting in vitro growth characteristics, can confer a selective advantage under host conditions, allowing the C. glabrata mutant to be more virulent than wild-type isolates.
Candida glabrata is an opportunistic human pathogen that is increasingly associated with candidemia, owing in part to the intrinsic and acquired high tolerance the organism exhibits for the important clinical antifungal drug fluconazole. This elevated fluconazole resistance often develops through gain-of-function mutations in the zinc cluster-containing transcriptional regulator C. glabrata Pdr1 (CgPdr1). CgPdr1 induces the expression of an ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter-encoding gene, CgCDR1. Saccharomyces cerevisiae has two CgPdr1 homologues called ScPdr1 and ScPdr3. These factors control the expression of an ABC transporter-encoding gene called ScPDR5, which encodes a homologue of CgCDR1. Loss of the mitochondrial genome (ρ0 cell) or overexpression of the mitochondrial enzyme ScPsd1 induces ScPDR5 expression in a strictly ScPdr3-dependent fashion. ScPdr3 requires the presence of a transcriptional Mediator subunit called Gal11 (Med15) to fully induce ScPDR5 transcription in response to ρ0 signaling. ScPdr1 does not respond to either ρ0 signals or ScPsd1 overproduction. In this study, we employed transcriptional fusions between CgPdr1 target promoters, like CgCDR1, to demonstrate that CgPdr1 stimulates gene expression via binding to elements called pleiotropic drug response elements (PDREs). Deletion mapping and electrophoretic mobility shift assays demonstrated that a single PDRE in the CgCDR1 promoter was capable of supporting ρ0-induced gene expression. Removal of one of the two ScGal11 homologues from C. glabrata caused a major defect in drug-induced expression of CgCDR1 but had a quantitatively minor effect on ρ0-stimulated transcription. These data demonstrate that CgPdr1 appears to combine features of ScPdr1 and ScPdr3 to produce a transcription factor with chimeric regulatory properties.
The ABC transporters Candida glabrata Cdr1 (CgCdr1), CgPdh1, and CgSnq2 are known to mediate azole resistance in the pathogenic fungus C. glabrata. Activating mutations in CgPDR1, a zinc cluster transcription factor, result in constitutive upregulation of these ABC transporter genes but to various degrees. We examined the genomewide gene expression profiles of two matched azole-susceptible and -resistant C. glabrata clinical isolate pairs. Of the differentially expressed genes identified in the gene expression profiles for these two matched pairs, there were 28 genes commonly upregulated with CgCDR1 in both isolate sets including YOR1, LCB5, RTA1, POG1, HFD1, and several members of the FLO gene family of flocculation genes. We then sequenced CgPDR1 from each susceptible and resistant isolate and found two novel activating mutations that conferred increased resistance when they were expressed in a common background strain in which CgPDR1 had been disrupted. Microarray analysis comparing these reengineered strains to their respective parent strains identified a set of commonly differentially expressed genes, including CgCDR1, YOR1, and YIM1, as well as genes uniquely regulated by specific mutations. Our results demonstrate that while CgPdr1 activates a broad repertoire of genes, specific activating mutations result in the activation of discrete subsets of this repertoire.
Some Candida albicans isolates from AIDS patients with oropharyngeal candidiasis are becoming resistant to the azole antifungal agent fluconazole after prolonged treatment with this compound. Most of the C. albicans isolates resistant to fluconazole fail to accumulate this antifungal agent, and this has been considered a cause of resistance. This phenomenon was shown to be linked to an increase in the amounts of mRNA of a C. albicans ABC (ATP-binding cassette) transporter gene called CDR1 and of a gene conferring benomyl resistance (BENr), the product of which belongs to the class of major facilitator multidrug efflux transporters (D. Sanglard, K. Kuchler, F. Ischer, J. L. Pagani, M. Monod, and J. Bille, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 39:2378-2386, 1995). To analyze the roles of these multidrug transporters in the efflux of azole antifungal agents, we constructed C. albicans mutants with single and double deletion mutations of the corresponding genes. The mutants were tested for their susceptibilities to these antifungal agents. Our results indicated that the delta cdr1 C. albicans mutant was hypersusceptible to the azole derivatives fluconazole, itraconazole, and ketoconazole, thus showing that the ABC transporter Cdr1 can use these compounds as substrates. The delta cdr1 mutant was also hypersusceptible to other antifungal agents (terbinafine and amorolfine) and to different metabolic inhibitors (cycloheximide, brefeldin A, and fluphenazine). The same mutant was slightly more susceptible than the wild type to nocodazole, cerulenin, and crystal violet but not to amphotericin B, nikkomycin Z, flucytosine, or pradimicin. In contrast, the delta ben mutant was rendered more susceptible only to the mutagen 4-nitroquinoline-N-oxide. However, this mutation increased the susceptibilities of the cells to cycloheximide and cerulenin when the mutation was constructed in a delta cdr1 background. The assay used in the present study could be implemented with new antifungal agents and is a powerful tool for assigning these substances as putative substrates of multidrug transporters.
Candida glabrata, a yeast with intrinsically low susceptibility to azoles, frequently develops increased azole resistance during prolonged treatment. Transposon mutagenesis revealed that disruption of CgPDR1 resulted in an 8- to 16-fold increase in fluconazole susceptibility of C. glabrata. CgPDR1 is a homolog of Saccharomyces cerevisiae PDR1, which encodes a transcriptional regulator of multidrug transporters. Northern blot analyses indicated that CgPDR1 regulated both constitutive and drug-induced expression of CgCDR1, a multidrug transporter gene. In agreement with the Northern analysis, the Cgpdr1 mutant had increased rhodamine accumulation, in contrast to the decreased accumulation in the CgPDR1-overexpressing strain. Northern analyses also indicated the importance of CgPDR1 in fluconazole resistance arising during therapy. Two clinically resistant isolates had higher expression of CgPDR1 and CgCDR1 compared to their paired susceptible isolates. Integrative transformation of CgPDR1 from the two resistant isolates converted the Cgpdr1 mutant into azole-resistant strains with upregulated CgPDR1 expression. Two different amino acid substitutions, W297S in one isolate and F575L in the other, accounted for the upregulated CgPDR1 expression and the resistance. Finally, CgPDR1 was shown to be required for the azole resistance due to mitochondrial deficiency. Thus, CgPDR1 encodes a transcriptional regulator of a pleiotropic drug resistance network and contributes to the azole resistance of clinical isolates and petite mutants.
We previously showed that resistant colonies of Candida glabrata inside the azole inhibition zones had respiratory deficiency due to mutations in mitochondrial DNA. Here, we analyzed the mechanisms of azole resistance in petite mutants of C. glabrata obtained by exposure to fluconazole or induced by ethidium bromide. The respiratory deficiency of these mutants was confirmed by oxygraphy and flow cytometric analysis with rhodamine 123, and its mitochondrial origin was demonstrated by transmission electron microscopy and restriction endonuclease analysis of the mitochondrial DNA. Flow cytometry with rhodamine 6G suggested an increased drug efflux in mutant cells, which was further supported by Northern blot analysis of the expression of the C. glabrata CDR1 (CgCDR1) and CgCDR2 genes, encoding efflux pumps. Conversely, the expression of CgERG11, which encodes the azole target, was not affected by petite mutations, and no differences were seen in the sequence of this gene between parent isolates and mutants. Moreover, sterol analysis showed similar overall amount of sterols in parent and mutant cells, but quantitative modifications were observed in the mutants, with almost undetectable biosynthesis intermediates. Further analysis performed after separation of free sterols from steryl esters revealed a defect in sterol esterification in mutant cells, with free ergosterol representing 92% of the overall sterol content. Thus, resistance or decreased susceptibility to azoles in petite mutants of C. glabrata is associated with increased expression of CgCDR1 and, to a lesser extent, of CgCDR2. In addition, the marked increase in free ergosterol content would explain their increased susceptibility to polyenes.
Candida glabrata has emerged as a common cause of fungal infection. This yeast has intrinsically low susceptibility to azole antifungals such as fluconazole, and mutation to frank azole resistance during treatment has been documented. Potential resistance mechanisms include changes in expression or sequence of ERG11 encoding the azole target. Alternatively, resistance could result from upregulated expression of multidrug transporter genes; in C. glabrata these include CDR1 and PDH1. By RNA hybridization, 10 of 12 azole-resistant clinical isolates showed 6- to 15-fold upregulation of CDR1 compared to susceptible strains. In 4 of these 10 isolates PDH1 was similarly upregulated, and in the remainder it was upregulated three- to fivefold, while ERG11 expression was minimally changed. Laboratory mutants were selected on fluconazole-containing medium with glycerol as carbon source (to eliminate mitochondrial mutants). Similar to the clinical isolates, six of seven laboratory mutants showed unchanged ERG11 expression but coordinate CDR1-PDH1 upregulation ranging from 2- to 20-fold. Effects of antifungal treatment on gene expression in susceptible C. glabrata strains were also studied: azole exposure induced CDR1-PDH1 expression 4- to 12-fold. These findings suggest that these transporter genes are regulated by a common mechanism. In support of this, a mutation associated with laboratory resistance was identified in the C. glabrata homolog of PDR1 which encodes a regulator of multidrug transporter genes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The mutation falls within a putative activation domain and was associated with PDR1 autoupregulation. Additional regulatory factors remain to be identified, as indicated by the lack of PDR1 mutation in a clinical isolate with coordinately upregulated CDR1-PDH1.
Candida albicans frequently develops resistance to treatment with azole drugs due to the acquisition of gain-of-function mutations in the transcription factor Tac1p. Tac1p hyperactivation in azole-resistant isolates results in the constitutive overexpression of several genes, including CDR1 and CDR2, which encode two homologous transporters of the ATP-binding cassette family. Functional studies of Cdr1p and Cdr2p have been carried out so far by heterologous expression in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and by gene deletion or overexpression in azole-sensitive C. albicans strains in which CDR1 expression is low and CDR2 expression is undetectable. Thus, the direct demonstration that CDR1 and CDR2 overexpression causes azole resistance in clinical strains is still lacking, as is our knowledge of the relative contribution of each transporter to clinical azole resistance. In the present study, we used the SAT1 flipper system to delete the CDR1 and CDR2 genes from clinical isolate 5674. This strain is resistant to several azole derivatives due to a strong hyperactive mutation in Tac1p and expresses high levels of Cdr1p and Cdr2p. We found that deleting CDR1 had a major effect, reducing resistance to fluconazole (FLC), ketoconazole (KTC), and itraconazole (ITC) by 6-, 4-, and 8-fold, respectively. Deleting CDR2 had a much weaker effect, reducing FLC or KTC resistance by 1.5-fold, and had no effect on ITC resistance. These results demonstrate that Cdr1p is a major determinant of azole resistance in strain 5674 and potentially in other clinical strains overexpressing Cdr1p and Cdr2p, while Cdr2p plays a more minor role.
Infections with the opportunistic yeast Candida glabrata have increased dramatically in recent years. Antifungal therapy of yeast infections commonly employs azoles, such as fluconazole (FLC), but C. glabrata frequently develops resistance to these inhibitors of ergosterol biosynthesis. The pyrimidine analog flucytosine (5-fluorocytosine [5FC]) is highly active versus C. glabrata but is now rarely used clinically due to similar concerns over resistance and, a related concern, the toxicity associated with high doses used to counter resistance. Azole-5FC combination therapy would potentially address these concerns; however, previous studies suggest that 5FC may antagonize azole activity versus C. glabrata. Here, we report that 5FC at subinhibitory concentrations antagonized the activity of FLC 4- to 16-fold versus 8 of 8 C. glabrata isolates tested. 5FC antagonized the activity of other azoles similarly but had only indifferent effects in combination with unrelated antifungals. Since azole resistance in C. glabrata results from transcription factor Pdr1-dependent upregulation of the multidrug transporter gene CDR1, we reasoned that 5FC antagonism might be similarly mediated. Indeed, 5FC-FLC antagonism was abrogated in pdr1Δ and cdr1Δ strains. In further support of this hypothesis, 5FC exposure induced CDR1 expression 6-fold, and this upregulation was Pdr1 dependent. In contrast to azoles, 5FC is not a Cdr1 substrate and so its activation of Pdr1 was unexpected. We observed, however, that 5FC exposure readily induced petite mutants, which exhibit Pdr1-dependent CDR1 upregulation. Thus, mitochondrial dysfunction resulting in Pdr1 activation is the likely basis for 5FC antagonism of azole activity versus C. glabrata.
The ABC transporter genes CDR1 and CDR2 can be upregulated in Candida albicans developing resistance to azoles or can be upregulated by exposing cells transiently to drugs such as fluphenazine. The cis-acting drug-responsive element (DRE) present in the promoters of both genes and necessary for their upregulation contains 5′-CGG-3′ triplets that are often recognized by transcriptional activators with Zn(2)-Cys(6) fingers. In order to isolate regulators of CDR1 and CDR2, the C. albicans genome was searched for genes encoding proteins with Zn(2)-Cys(6) fingers. Interestingly, three of these genes were tandemly arranged near the mating locus. Their involvement in CDR1 and CDR2 upregulation was addressed because a previous study demonstrated a link between mating locus homozygosity and azole resistance. The deletion of only one of these genes (orf19.3188) was sufficient to result in a loss of transient CDR1 and CDR2 upregulation by fluphenazine and was therefore named TAC1 (transcriptional activator of CDR genes). Tac1p has a nuclear localization, and a fusion of Tac1p with glutathione S-transferase could bind the cis-acting regulatory DRE in both the CDR1 and the CDR2 promoters. TAC1 is also relevant for azole resistance, since a TAC1 allele (TAC1-2) recovered from an azole-resistant strain could trigger constitutive upregulation of CDR1 and CDR2 in an azole-susceptible laboratory strain. Transcript profiling experiments performed with a TAC1 mutant and a revertant containing TAC1-2 revealed not only CDR1 and CDR2 as targets of TAC1 regulation but also other genes (RTA3, IFU5, and HSP12) that interestingly contained a DRE-like element in their promoters. In conclusion, TAC1 appears to be the first C. albicans transcription factor involved in the control of genes mediating antifungal resistance.
We examined the changes in genotypes and azole susceptibilities among sequential bloodstream isolates of Candida glabrata during the course of fungemia and the relationship of these changes to antifungal therapy. Forty-one isolates were obtained from 15 patients (9 patients who received antifungal therapy and 6 patients who did not) over periods of up to 36 days. The isolates were analyzed using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and tested for antifungal susceptibility to fluconazole, itraconazole, and voriconazole. PFGE typing consisted of electrophoretic karyotyping and restriction endonuclease analysis of genomic DNA by use of NotI (REAG-N). The 41 isolates yielded 23 different karyotypes and 11 different REAG-N patterns but only 3 MLST types. The sequential strains from each patient had identical or similar REAG-N patterns. However, they had two or three different karyotypes in 6 (40%) of 15 patients. The isolates from these six patients exhibited the same or similar azole susceptibilities, and five patients did not receive antifungal therapy. Development of acquired azole resistance in sequential isolates was detected for only one patient. For this patient, an isolate of the same genotype obtained after azole therapy showed three- or fourfold increases in the MICs of all three azole antifungals and exhibited increased expression of the CgCDR1 efflux pump. This study shows that karyotypic changes can develop rapidly among sequential bloodstream strains of C. glabrata from the same patient without antifungal therapy. In addition, we confirmed that C. glabrata could acquire azole resistance during the course of fungemia in association with azole therapy.
The opportunistic yeast pathogen Candida glabrata is recognized for its ability to acquire resistance during prolonged treatment with azole antifungals (J. E. Bennett, K. Izumikawa, and K. A. Marr. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 48:1773–1777, 2004). Resistance to azoles is largely mediated by the transcription factor PDR1, resulting in the upregulation of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter proteins and drug efflux. Studies in the related yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae have shown that Pdr1p forms a heterodimer with another transcription factor, Stb5p. In C. glabrata, the open reading frame (ORF) designated CAGL0I02552g has 38.8% amino acid identity with STB5 (YHR178w) and shares an N-terminal Zn2Cys6 binuclear cluster domain and a fungus-specific transcriptional factor domain, prompting us to test for homologous function and a possible role in azole resistance. Complementation of a Δyhr178w (Δstb5) mutant with CAGL0I02552g resolved the increased sensitivity to cold, hydrogen peroxide, and caffeine of the mutant, for which reason we designated CAGl0I02552g CgSTB5. Overexpression of CgSTB5 in C. glabrata repressed azole resistance, whereas deletion of CgSTB5 caused a modest increase in resistance. Expression analysis found that CgSTB5 shares many transcriptional targets with CgPDR1 but, unlike the latter, is a negative regulator of pleiotropic drug resistance, including the ABC transporter genes CDR1, PDH1, and YOR1.
Azole antifungal agents, and especially fluconazole, have been used widely to treat oropharyngeal candidiasis in patients with AIDS. An increasing number of cases of clinical resistance against fluconazole, often correlating with in vitro resistance, have been reported. To investigate the mechanisms of resistance toward azole antifungal agents at the molecular level in clinical C. albicans isolates, we focused on resistance mechanisms related to the cellular target of azoles, i.e., cytochrome P450(14DM) (14DM) and those regulating the transport or accumulation of fluconazole. The analysis of sequential isogenic C. albicans isolates with increasing levels of resistance to fluconazole from five AIDS patients showed that overexpression of the gene encoding 14DM either by gene amplification or by gene deregulation was not the major cause of resistance among these clinical isolates. We found, however, that fluconazole-resistant C. albicans isolates failed to accumulate 3H-labelled fluconazole. This phenomenon was reversed in resistant cells by inhibiting the cellular energy supply with azide, suggesting that resistance could be mediated by energy-requiring efflux pumps such as those described as ATP-binding cassette (ABC) multidrug transporters. In fact, some but not all fluconazole-resistant clinical C. albicans isolates exhibited up to a 10-fold relative increase in mRNA levels for a recently cloned ABC transporter gene called CDR1. In an azole-resistant C. albicans isolate not overexpressing CDR1, the gene for another efflux pump named BENr was massively overexpressed. This gene was cloned from C. albicans for conferring benomyl resistance in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Therefore, at least the overexpression or the deregulation of these two genes potentially mediates resistance to azoles in C. albicans clinical isolates from AIDS patients with oropharyngeal candidiasis. Involvement of ABC transporters in azole resistance was further evidenced with S. cerevisiae mutants lacking specific multidrug transporters which were rendered hypersusceptible to azole derivatives including fluconazole, itraconazole, and ketoconazole.
Candida glabrata has emerged in recent years as a significant cause of systemic fungal infection. We have previously reported on the first three patients receiving radiation for head and neck cancer to develop oropharyngeal candidiasis due to C. glabrata. The goal of this study was to track the development of increased fluconazole resistance in C. glabrata isolates and to evaluate previously described genetic mechanisms associated with this resistance from one of these three patients. The patient was a 52-year-old man with squamous cell carcinoma treated with radiation. At week 7 of his radiation, he developed oropharyngeal candidiasis, which was treated with 200 mg of fluconazole daily for 2 weeks. Serial cultures from this and three subsequent time points yielded C. glabrata. Isolates from these cultures were subjected to antifungal susceptibility testing, DNA karyotyping, and evaluation of the expression of genes previously associated with C. glabrata resistance to fluconazole, CgCDR1, CgCDR2, and CgERG11. Two strains (A and B) of C. glabrata were identified and found to display different patterns of resistance development and gene expression. Strain A developed resistance over a 2-week period and showed no overexpression of these genes. In contrast, strain B first showed resistance 6 weeks after fluconazole therapy was discontinued but showed overexpression of all three genes. In conclusion, development of resistance to fluconazole by C. glabrata is a highly varied process involving multiple molecular mechanisms.
Principal mechanisms of resistance to azole antifungals include the upregulation of multidrug transporters and the modification of the target enzyme, a cytochrome P450 (Erg11) involved in the 14α-demethylation of ergosterol. These mechanisms are often combined in azole-resistant Candida albicans isolates recovered from patients. However, the precise contributions of individual mechanisms to C. albicans resistance to specific azoles have been difficult to establish because of the technical difficulties in the genetic manipulation of this diploid species. Recent advances have made genetic manipulations easier, and we therefore undertook the genetic dissection of resistance mechanisms in an azole-resistant clinical isolate. This isolate (DSY296) upregulates the multidrug transporter genes CDR1 and CDR2 and has acquired a G464S substitution in both ERG11 alleles. In DSY296, inactivation of TAC1, a transcription factor containing a gain-of-function mutation, followed by sequential replacement of ERG11 mutant alleles with wild-type alleles, restored azole susceptibility to the levels measured for a parent azole-susceptible isolate (DSY294). These sequential genetic manipulations not only demonstrated that these two resistance mechanisms were those responsible for the development of resistance in DSY296 but also indicated that the quantitative level of resistance as measured in vitro by MIC determinations was a function of the number of genetic resistance mechanisms operating in any strain. The engineered strains were also tested for their responses to fluconazole treatment in a novel 3-day model of invasive C. albicans infection of mice. Fifty percent effective doses (ED50s) of fluconazole were highest for DSY296 and decreased proportionally with the sequential removal of each resistance mechanism. However, while the fold differences in ED50 were proportional to the fold differences in MICs, their magnitude was lower than that measured in vitro and depended on the specific resistance mechanism operating.
Resistance to the commonly used azole antifungal fluconazole (FLC) can develop due to overexpression of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) and major facilitator superfamily (MFS) plasma membrane transporters. An approach to overcoming this resistance is to identify inhibitors of these efflux pumps. We have developed a pump assay suitable for high-throughput screening (HTS) that uses recombinant Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains hyperexpressing individual transporters from the opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans. The recombinant strains possess greater resistance to azoles and other pump substrates than the parental host strain. A flow cytometry-based HTS, which measured increased intracellular retention of the fluorescent pump substrate rhodamine 6G (R6G) within yeast cells, was used to screen the Prestwick Chemical Library (PCL) of 1,200 marketed drugs. Nine compounds were identified as hits, and the monoamine oxidase A inhibitor (MAOI) clorgyline was identified as an inhibitor of two C. albicans ABC efflux pumps, CaCdr1p and CaCdr2p. Secondary in vitro assays confirmed inhibition of pump-mediated efflux by clorgyline. Clorgyline also reversed the FLC resistance of S. cerevisiae strains expressing other individual fungal ABC transporters (Candida glabrata Cdr1p or Candida krusei Abc1p) or the C. albicans MFS transporter Mdr1p. Recombinant strains were also chemosensitized by clorgyline to other azoles (itraconazole and miconazole). Importantly, clorgyline showed synergy with FLC against FLC-resistant C. albicans clinical isolates and a C. glabrata strain and inhibited R6G efflux from a FLC-resistant C. albicans clinical isolate. Clorgyline is a novel broad-spectrum inhibitor of two classes of fungal efflux pumps that acts synergistically with azoles against azole-resistant C. albicans and C. glabrata strains.
We describe a case of recurrent Candida glabrata fungemia that became unresponsive to fluconazole treatment. Posttreatment isolates from blood and vaginal cultures of the immunocompetent patient were azole resistant and exhibited upregulated expression of CgCDR1/CgCDR2 efflux pumps compared to the original isolates. Amphotericin B therapy eradicated the infection.
The micafungin and caspofungin susceptibilities of Candida albicans laboratory and clinical isolates and of Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains stably hyperexpressing fungal ATP-binding cassette (ABC) or major facilitator superfamily (MFS) transporters involved in azole resistance were determined using three separate methods. Yeast strains hyperexpressing individual alleles of ABC transporters or an MFS transporter from C. albicans gave the expected resistance profiles for the azoles fluconazole, itraconazole, and voriconazole. The strains hyperexpressing CDR2 showed slightly decreased susceptibility to caspofungin in agar plate drug resistance assays, as previously reported, but increased susceptibility to micafungin compared with either the strains hyperexpressing CDR1 or the null parent deleted of seven ABC transporters. The strains hyperexpressing CDR1 showed slightly decreased susceptibility to micafungin in these assays. A C. albicans clinical isolate overexpressing both Cdr1p and Cdr2p relative to its azole-sensitive isogenic progenitor acquired resistance to azole drugs and showed reduced susceptibility to caspofungin and slightly increased susceptibility to micafungin in agar plate drug resistance assays. None of the strains showed significant resistance to micafungin or caspofungin in liquid microdilution susceptibility assays. The antifungal activities of micafungin and caspofungin were similar in agarose diffusion assays, although the shape and size of the caspofungin inhibitory zones were affected by medium composition. The assessment of micafungin and caspofungin potency is therefore assay dependent; the differences seen with agar plate drug resistance assays occur over narrow ranges of echinocandin concentrations and are not of clinical significance.
The Candida albicans CDR1 and CDR2 genes code for highly homologous ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters which are overexpressed in azole-resistant clinical isolates and which confer resistance to multiple drugs by actively transporting their substrates out of the cells. These transporters are formed by two homologous halves, each with an intracellular domain containing an ATP-binding site followed by a membrane-associated domain. We have expressed Cdr1p and Cdr2p in Saccharomyces cerevisiae to investigate their functions. The two proteins were properly expressed and functional, as determined by Western blotting, drug susceptibility assays, and rhodamine efflux. Using total membrane proteins from these transformants, we showed that Cdr1p and Cdr2p bind to the photoreactive analogue of rhodamine 123, [125I]iodoaryl azido-rhodamine 123 (IAARh123). IAARh123 photoaffinity labeling of membranes prepared from cells expressing either the N half or the C half of Cdr2p, or both, demonstrated that both halves contribute to rhodamine binding and can bind to rhodamine independently. Interestingly, Cdr1p was found to confer hypersusceptibility to FK520, an immunosuppressant and antifungal agent, whereas Cdr2p conferred resistance to this compound, uncovering a major functional difference between the two transporters. Furthermore, when administered in combination with azoles, FK520 sensitized cells expressing CDR1 but not those expressing CDR2. Finally, we showed that Cdr2p confers hypersusceptibility to hydrogen peroxide and resistance to diamide, while Cdr1p has no effect against these oxidative agents. Taken together, our results demonstrate that, despite a high level of structural conservation, Cdr1p and Cdr2p exhibit major functional differences, suggesting distinct biological functions.