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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The development of azole resistance in Candida albicans is most problematic in patients with AIDS who receive long courses of drug for therapy or prevention of oral candidiasis. Recently, the rapid development of resistance was noted in other immunosuppressed patients who developed disseminated candidiasis despite fluconazole prophylaxis. One of these series of C. albicans isolates became resistant, with an associated increase in mRNA specific for a CDR ATP-binding cassette transporter efflux pump (K. A. Marr, C. N. Lyons, T. R. Rustad, R. A. Bowden, and T. C. White, Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 42:2584–2589, 1998). Here we study this series of C. albicans isolates further and examine the mechanism of azole resistance in a second series of C. albicans isolates that caused disseminated infection in a recipient of bone marrow transplantation. The susceptible isolates in both series become resistant to fluconazole after serial growth in the presence of drug, while the resistant isolates in both series become susceptible after serial transfer in the absence of drug. Population analysis of the inducible, transiently resistant isolates reveals a heterogeneous population of fluconazole-susceptible and -resistant cells. We conclude that the rapid development of azole resistance occurs by a mechanism that involves selection of a resistant clone from a heterogeneous population of cells.
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.
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.
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.
Candida albicans is an opportunistic human fungal pathogen and a causative agent of oropharyngeal candidiasis (OPC), the most frequent opportunistic infection among patients with AIDS. Fluconazole and other azole antifungal agents have proven effective in the management of OPC; however, with increased use of these agents treatment failures have occurred. Such failures have been associated with the emergence of azole-resistant strains of C. albicans. In the present study we examined changes in the genome-wide gene expression profile of a series of C. albicans clinical isolates representing the stepwise acquisition of azole resistance. In addition to genes previously associated with azole resistance, we identified many genes whose differential expression was for the first time associated with this phenotype. Furthermore, the expression of these genes was correlated with that of the known resistance genes CDR1, CDR2, and CaMDR1. Genes coordinately regulated with the up-regulation of CDR1 and CDR2 included the up-regulation of GPX1 and RTA3 and the down-regulation of EBP1. Genes coordinately regulated with the up-regulation of CaMDR1 included the up-regulation of IFD1, IFD4, IFD5, IFD7, GRP2, DPP1, CRD2, and INO1 and the down-regulation of FET34, OPI3, and IPF1222. Several of these appeared to be coordinately regulated with both the CDR genes and CaMDR1. Many of these genes are involved in the oxidative stress response, suggesting that reduced susceptibility to oxidative damage may contribute to azole resistance. Further evaluation of the role these genes and their respective gene products play in azole antifungal resistance is warranted.
The opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans is the major causative agent of oropharyngeal candidiasis (OPC) in AIDS. The development of azoles, such as fluconazole, for the treatment of OPC has proven effective except in cases where C. albicans develops resistance to fluconazole during the course of treatment. In the present study, we used microarray technology to examine differences in gene expression from a fluconazole-susceptible and a fluconazole-resistant well-characterized, clinically obtained matched set of C. albicans isolates to identify genes which are differentially expressed in association with azole resistance. Among genes found to be differentially expressed were those involved in amino acid and carbohydrate metabolism; cell stress, cell wall maintenance; lipid, fatty acid, and sterol metabolism; and small molecule transport. In addition to CDR1, which has previously been demonstrated to be associated with azole resistance, the drug resistance gene RTA3, the ergosterol biosynthesis gene ERG2, and the cell stress genes CRD2, GPX1, and IFD5 were found to be upregulated. Several genes, such as the mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase gene ALD5, the glycosylphosphatidylinositol synthesis gene GPI1, and the iron transport genes FET34 and FTR2 were found to be downregulated. Further study of these differentially regulated genes is warranted to evaluate how they may be involved in azole resistance. In addition to these novel findings, we demonstrate the utility of microarray analysis for studying the molecular mechanisms of drug resistance in pathogenic organisms.
Sequential Candida glabrata isolates were obtained from the mouth of a patient infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 who was receiving high doses of fluconazole for oropharyngeal thrush. Fluconazole-susceptible colonies were replaced by resistant colonies that exhibited both increased fluconazole efflux and increased transcripts of a gene which codes for a protein with 72.5% identity to Pdr5p, an ABC multidrug transporter in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The deduced protein had a molecular mass of 175 kDa and was composed of two homologous halves, each with six putative transmembrane domains and highly conserved sequences of ATP-binding domains. When the earliest and most azole-susceptible isolate of C. glabrata from this patient was exposed to fluconazole, increased transcripts of the PDR5 homolog appeared, linking azole exposure to regulation of this gene.
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.
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 causes significant medical problems in immunocompromised patients. Many strains of this yeast are intrinsically resistant to azole antifungal agents, and treatment is problematic, leading to high morbidity and mortality rates in immunosuppressed individuals. The primary goal of this study was to investigate the genes involved in the drug resistance of clinical isolates of C. glabrata.
The clinical isolates of C. glabrata were collected in an epidemiological survey of candidal infection in immunocompromised patients and consisted of four fluconazole and itraconazole resistant isolates, two fluconazole and itraconazole sensitive isolates, and C. glabrata CBS 138 as reference strain. Antifungal susceptibility patterns of the organisms were determined beforehand by the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI). The potential gene(s) implicated in antifungal resistance were investigated using complementary DNA- Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism (cDNA-AFLP). Semi-quantitative RT-PCR was carried out to evaluate the expression of gene(s) in resistant isolates as compared to sensitive and reference strains.
Results and conclusions
The aldo-keto-reductase superfamily (AKR gene) was upregulated in the resistant clinical isolates as assessed by cDNA-AFLP. Semi-quantitative RT-PCR revealed AKR mRNA expression approximately twice that seen in the sensitive isolates. Overexpression of the AKR gene was associated with increased fluconazole and itraconazole resistance in C. glabrata. The data suggest that upregulation of the AKR gene might give a new insight into the mechanism of azole resistance.
Azole; Aldo-keto-reductase; cDNA-AFLP; Candida glabrata; Semi-quantitative RT-PCR
Five azole-susceptible Candida glabrata isolates obtained before 1975 became resistant to fluconazole, itraconazole, and voriconazole within 4 days of in vitro fluconazole exposure. This cross-resistance was stable for at least 4 months after removal of fluconazole and was associated with increased CgCDR1 and CgCDR2 expression.
Study of in vivo antifungal activity of the hydroalcoholic extract (HE) and n-BuOH extract (BUTE) of Sapindus saponaria against azole-susceptible and -resistant human vaginal Candida spp.
The in vitro antifungal activity of HE, BUTE, fluconazole (FLU), and itraconazole (ITRA) was determined by the broth microdilution method. We obtained values of minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) and minimum fungicide concentration (MFC) for 46 strains of C. albicans and 10 of C. glabrata isolated from patients with vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC). VVC was induced in hyperestrogenic Wistar rats with azole-susceptible C. albicans (SCA), azole-resistant C. albicans (RCA), and azole-resistant C. glabrata (RCG). The rats were treated intravaginally with 0.1 mL of HE or BUTE at concentrations of 1%, 2.5% and 5%; 100 μg/mL of FLU (treatment positive control); or distilled water (negative control) at 1, 24, and 48 h after induction of the infection, and the progress of VVC was monitored by culturing and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The toxicity was evaluated in cervical cells of the HeLa cell line.
The extracts showed in vitro inhibitory and fungicidal activity against all the isolates, and the MIC and MFC values for the C. glabrata isolates were slightly higher. In vivo, the SCA, RCA, and RCG infections were eliminated by 21 days post-infection, with up to 5% HE and BUTE, comparable to the activity of FLU. No cytotoxic action was observed for either extract.
Our results demonstrated that HE and BUTE from S. saponaria show inhibitory and fungicidal activity in vitro, in addition to in vivo activity against azole-resistant vaginal isolates of C. glabrata and azole-susceptible and resistant isolates of C. albicans. Also considering the lack of cytotoxicity and the low concentrations of the extracts necessary to eliminate the infection in vivo, HE and BUTE show promise for continued studies with purified antifungal substances in VVC yeast isolates.
Sapindus saponaria; vaginal yeasts; antifungal activity; in vivo
The pathogenic yeast Candida glabrata exhibits innate resistance to fluconazole, the most commonly used antifungal agent. By screening a library of 9,216 random insertion mutants, we identified a set of 27 genes which upon mutation, confer altered fluconazole susceptibility in C. glabrata. Homologues of three of these genes have been implicated in azole and/or drug resistance in Saccharomyces cerevisiae: two of these belong to the family of ABC transporters (PDR5 and PDR16), and one is involved in retrograde signaling from mitochondria to nucleus (RTG2). The remaining 24 genes are involved in diverse cellular functions, including ribosomal biogenesis and mitochondrial function, activation of RNA polymerase II transcription, nuclear ubiquitin ligase function, cell wall biosynthesis, and calcium homeostasis. We characterized two sets of mutants in more detail. Strains defective in a putative plasma membrane calcium channel (Cch1-Mid1) were modestly more susceptible to fluconazole but showed a significant loss of viability upon prolonged fluconazole exposure, suggesting that calcium signaling is required for survival of azole stress in C. glabrata. These mutants were defective in calcium uptake in response to fluconazole exposure. The combined results suggest that, in the absence of Ca2+ signaling, fluconazole has a fungicidal rather than a fungistatic effect on C. glabrata. The second set of mutants characterized in detail were defective in mitochondrial assembly and organization, and these exhibited very high levels of fluconazole resistance. Further analysis of these mutants indicated that in C. glabrata a mechanism exists for reversible loss of mitochondrial function that does not involve loss of mitochondrial genome and that C. glabrata can switch between states of mitochondrial competence and incompetence in response to fluconazole exposure.
Oral infections with the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans are one of the most frequent and earliest opportunistic infections in human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients. The widespread use of azole antifungal drugs has led to the development of drug-resistant isolates. Several molecular mechanisms that contribute to drug resistance have been identified, including increased mRNA levels for two types of efflux pump genes: the ATP binding cassette transporter CDRs (CDR1 and CDR2) and the major facilitator MDR1. Using Northern blot analyses, the expression patterns of these genes have been determined during logarithmic and stationary phases of cell growth and during growth in different carbon sources in a set of matched susceptible and fluconazole-resistant isolates that have been characterized previously. MDR1, CDR1, and CDR2 are expressed early during logarithmic growth, CDR4 is expressed late during logarithmic growth, and CDR1 is preferentially expressed in stationary-phase cells. There is a small decrease in expression of these genes when the cells are grown in carbon sources other than glucose. While increased mRNA levels of efflux pump genes are commonly associated with azole resistance, the causes of increased mRNA levels have not yet been resolved. Southern blot analysis demonstrates that the increased mRNA levels in these isolates are not the result of gene amplification. Nuclear run-on assays show that MDR1 and CDR mRNAs are transcriptionally overexpressed in the resistant isolate, suggesting that the antifungal drug resistance in this series is associated with the promoter and trans-acting factors of the CDR1, CDR2, and MDR1 genes.
There has been a gradual increase in the incidence of non-Candida albicans-related nosocomial infections. Candida glabrata urinary tract infections have increased in frequency, and treating these infections can be difficult because the organism may be resistant to fluconazole. A newer antifungal agent, micafungin, which belongs in the class of echinocandins, provides an alternative and effective therapy against C glabrata. The present report describes three cases of C glabrata-associated urinary tract infections successfully treated with micafungin. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first report of successful treatment of C glabrata and azole-resistant C albicans-associated urinary tract infection with an echinocandin.
The antifungal flucytosine (5-fluorocytosine [5FC]) is a prodrug metabolized to its toxic form, 5-fluorouracil (5FU), only by organisms expressing cytosine deaminase. One such organism is Candida glabrata, which has emerged as the second most common agent of bloodstream and mucosal candidiasis. This emergence has been attributed to the high rate at which C. glabrata develops resistance to azole antifungals. As an oral agent, 5FC represents an attractive alternative or complement to azoles; however, the frequency of 5FC resistance mutations and the mechanisms by which these mutations confer resistance have been explored only minimally. On RPMI 1640 medium containing 1 μg/ml 5FC (32-fold above the MIC, but less than 1/10 of typical serum levels), resistant mutants occurred at a relatively low frequency (2 × 10−7). Three of six mutants characterized were 5FU cross-resistant, suggesting a mutation downstream of the Fcy1 gene (cytosine deaminase), which was confirmed by sequence analysis of the Fur1 gene (uracil phosphoribosyl transferase). The remaining three mutants had Fcy1 mutations. To ascertain the effects of 5FC resistance mutations on enzyme function, mutants were isolated in ura3 strains. Three of seven mutants harbored Fcy1 mutations and failed to grow in uridine-free, cytosine-supplemented medium, consistent with inactive Fcy1. The remainder grew in this medium and had wild-type Fcy1; further analysis revealed these to be mutated in the Fcy2L homolog of S. cerevisiae Fcy2 (purine-cytosine transporter). Based on this analysis, we characterized three 5FC-resistant clinical isolates, and mutations were identified in Fur1 and Fcy1. These data provide a framework for understanding 5FC resistance in C. glabrata and potentially in other fungal pathogens.