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1.  Novel Macrocyclic Amidinoureas: Potent Non-Azole Antifungals Active against Wild-Type and Resistant Candida Species 
ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters  2013;4(9):852-857.
Novel macrocyclic amidinourea derivatives 11, 18, and 25 were synthesized and evaluated as antifungal agents against wild-type and fluconazole resistant Candida species. Macrocyclic compounds 11 and 18 were synthesized through a convergent approach using as a key step a ring-closing metathesis macrocyclization reaction, whereas compounds 25 were obtained by our previously reported synthetic pathway. All the macrocyclic amidinoureas showed antifungal activity toward different Candida species higher or comparable to fluconazole and resulted highly active against fluconazole resistant Candida strains showing in many cases minimum inhibitory concentration values lower than voriconazole.
doi:10.1021/ml400187w
PMCID: PMC4027461  PMID: 24900759
Antifungal; amidinourea; macrocyclization; ring-closing metathesis; Candida species; fluconazole; antifungal drug-resistance
2.  Molecular Mechanisms of Action of Herbal Antifungal Alkaloid Berberine, in Candida albicans 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104554.
Candida albicans causes superficial to systemic infections in immuno-compromised individuals. The concomitant use of fungistatic drugs and the lack of cidal drugs frequently result in strains that could withstand commonly used antifungals, and display multidrug resistance (MDR). In search of novel fungicidals, in this study, we have explored a plant alkaloid berberine (BER) for its antifungal potential. For this, we screened an in-house transcription factor (TF) mutant library of C. albicans strains towards their susceptibility to BER. Our screen of TF mutant strains identified a heat shock factor (HSF1), which has a central role in thermal adaptation, to be most responsive to BER treatment. Interestingly, HSF1 mutant was not only highly susceptible to BER but also displayed collateral susceptibility towards drugs targeting cell wall (CW) and ergosterol biosynthesis. Notably, BER treatment alone could affect the CW integrity as was evident from the growth retardation of MAP kinase and calcineurin pathway null mutant strains and transmission electron microscopy. However, unlike BER, HSF1 effect on CW appeared to be independent of MAP kinase and Calcineurin pathway genes. Additionally, unlike hsf1 null strain, BER treatment of Candida cells resulted in dysfunctional mitochondria, which was evident from its slow growth in non-fermentative carbon source and poor labeling with mitochondrial membrane potential sensitive probe. This phenotype was reinforced with an enhanced ROS levels coinciding with the up-regulated oxidative stress genes in BER-treated cells. Together, our study not only describes the molecular mechanism of BER fungicidal activity but also unravels a new role of evolutionary conserved HSF1, in MDR of Candida.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0104554
PMCID: PMC4126717  PMID: 25105295
3.  Distinct Roles of Candida albicans Drug Resistance Transcription Factors TAC1, MRR1, and UPC2 in Virulence 
Eukaryotic Cell  2014;13(1):127-142.
Azoles are widely used in antifungal therapy in medicine. Resistance to azoles can occur in Candida albicans principally by overexpression of multidrug transporter gene CDR1, CDR2, or MDR1 or by overexpression of ERG11, which encodes the azole target. The expression of these genes is controlled by the transcription factors (TFs) TAC1 (involved in the control of CDR1 and CDR2), MRR1 (involved in the control of MDR1), and UPC2 (involved in the control of ERG11). Several gain-of-function (GOF) mutations are present in hyperactive alleles of these TFs, resulting in the overexpression of target genes. While these mutations are beneficial to C. albicans survival in the presence of the antifungal drugs, their effects could potentially alter the fitness and virulence of C. albicans in the absence of the selective drug pressure. In this work, the effect of GOF mutations on C. albicans virulence was addressed in a systemic model of intravenous infection by mouse survival and kidney fungal burden assays. We engineered a set of strains with identical genetic backgrounds in which hyperactive alleles were reintroduced in one or two copies at their genomic loci. The results obtained showed that neither TAC1 nor MRR1 GOF mutations had a significant effect on C. albicans virulence. In contrast, the presence of two hyperactive UPC2 alleles in C. albicans resulted in a significant decrease in virulence, correlating with diminished kidney colonization compared to that by the wild type. In agreement with the effect on virulence, the decreased fitness of an isolate with UPC2 hyperactive alleles was observed in competition experiments with the wild type in vivo but not in vitro. Interestingly, UPC2 hyperactivity delayed filamentation of C. albicans after phagocytosis by murine macrophages, which may at least partially explain the virulence defects. Combining the UPC2 GOF mutation with another hyperactive TF did not compensate for the negative effect of UPC2 on virulence. In conclusion, among the major TFs involved in azole resistance, only UPC2 had a negative impact on virulence and fitness, which may therefore have consequences for the epidemiology of antifungal resistance.
doi:10.1128/EC.00245-13
PMCID: PMC3910953  PMID: 24243794
4.  Molecular Mechanisms of Drug Resistance in Clinical Candida Species Isolated from Tunisian Hospitals 
Antifungal resistance of Candida species is a clinical problem in the management of diseases caused by these pathogens. In this study we identified from a collection of 423 clinical samples taken from Tunisian hospitals two clinical Candida species (Candida albicans JEY355 and Candida tropicalis JEY162) with decreased susceptibility to azoles and polyenes. For JEY355, the fluconazole (FLC) MIC was 8 μg/ml. Azole resistance in C. albicans JEY355 was mainly caused by overexpression of a multidrug efflux pump of the major facilitator superfamily, Mdr1. The regulator of Mdr1, MRR1, contained a yet-unknown gain-of-function mutation (V877F) causing MDR1 overexpression. The C. tropicalis JEY162 isolate demonstrated cross-resistance between FLC (MIC > 128 μg/ml), voriconazole (MIC > 16 μg/ml), and amphotericin B (MIC > 32 μg/ml). Sterol analysis using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry revealed that ergosterol was undetectable in JEY162 and that it accumulated 14α-methyl fecosterol, thus indicating a perturbation in the function of at least two main ergosterol biosynthesis proteins (Erg11 and Erg3). Sequence analyses of C. tropicalis ERG11 (CtERG11) and CtERG3 from JEY162 revealed a deletion of 132 nucleotides and a single amino acid substitution (S258F), respectively. These two alleles were demonstrated to be nonfunctional and thus are consistent with previous studies showing that ERG11 mutants can only survive in combination with other ERG3 mutations. CtERG3 and CtERG11 wild-type alleles were replaced by the defective genes in a wild-type C. tropicalis strain, resulting in a drug resistance phenotype identical to that of JEY162. This genetic evidence demonstrated that CtERG3 and CtERG11 mutations participated in drug resistance. During reconstitution of the drug resistance in C. tropicalis, a strain was obtained harboring only defective Cterg11 allele and containing as a major sterol the toxic metabolite 14α-methyl-ergosta-8,24(28)-dien-3α,6β-diol, suggesting that ERG3 was still functional. This strain therefore challenged the current belief that ERG11 mutations cannot be viable unless accompanied by compensatory mutations. In conclusion, this study, in addition to identifying a novel MRR1 mutation in C. albicans, constitutes the first report on a clinical C. tropicalis with defective activity of sterol 14α-demethylase and sterol Δ5,6-desaturase leading to azole-polyene cross-resistance.
doi:10.1128/AAC.00555-13
PMCID: PMC3697321  PMID: 23629718
5.  Gain-of-Function Mutations in PDR1, a Regulator of Antifungal Drug Resistance in Candida glabrata, Control Adherence to Host Cells 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(5):1709-1720.
Candida glabrata is an emerging opportunistic pathogen that is known to develop resistance to azole drugs due to increased drug efflux. The mechanism consists of CgPDR1-mediated upregulation of ATP-binding cassette transporters. A range of gain-of-function (GOF) mutations in CgPDR1 have been found to lead not only to azole resistance but also to enhanced virulence. This implicates CgPDR1 in the regulation of the interaction of C. glabrata with the host. To identify specific CgPDR1-regulated steps of the host-pathogen interaction, we investigated in this work the interaction of selected CgPDR1 GOF mutants with murine bone marrow-derived macrophages and human acute monocytic leukemia cell line (THP-1)-derived macrophages, as well as different epithelial cell lines. GOF mutations in CgPDR1 did not influence survival and replication within macrophages following phagocytosis but led to decreased adherence to and uptake by macrophages. This may allow evasion from the host's innate cellular immune response. The interaction with epithelial cells revealed an opposite trend, suggesting that GOF mutations in CgPDR1 may favor epithelial colonization of the host by C. glabrata through increased adherence to epithelial cell layers. These data reveal that GOF mutations in CgPDR1 modulate the interaction with host cells in ways that may contribute to increased virulence.
doi:10.1128/IAI.00074-13
PMCID: PMC3648025  PMID: 23460523
6.  Milbemycins: More than Efflux Inhibitors for Fungal Pathogens 
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.
doi:10.1128/AAC.02040-12
PMCID: PMC3553706  PMID: 23208712
7.  Characterization of a New Clinical Yeast Species, Candida tunisiensis sp. nov., Isolated from a Strain Collection from Tunisian Hospitals 
From a collection of yeast isolates isolated from patients in Tunisian hospitals between September 2006 and July 2010, the yeast strain JEY63 (CBS 12513), isolated from a 50-year-old male that suffered from oral thrush, could not be identified to the species level using conventional methods used in clinical laboratories. These methods include matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization–time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS), germ tube formation, and the use of CHROMagar Candida and metabolic galleries. Sequence analysis of the nuclear rRNA (18S rRNA, 5.8S rRNA, and 26S rRNA) and internal transcribed spacer regions (ITS1 and ITS2) indicated that the ribosomal DNA sequences of this species were not yet reported. Multiple gene phylogenic analyses suggested that this isolate clustered at the base of the Dipodascaceae (Saccharomycetales, Saccharomycetes, and Ascomycota). JEY63 was named Candida tunisiensis sp. nov. according to several phenotypic criteria and its geographical origin. C. tunisiensis was able to grow at 42°C and does not form chlamydospores and hyphae but could grow as yeast and pseudohyphal forms. C. tunisiensis exhibited most probably a haploid genome with an estimated size of 10 Mb on at least three chromosomes. Using European Committee for Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing (EUCAST) and Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI) Candida albicans susceptibility breakpoints as a reference, C. tunisiensis was resistant to fluconazole (MIC = 8 μg/ml), voriconazole (MIC = 0.5 μg/ml), itraconazole (MIC = 16 μg/ml), and amphotericin B (MIC = 4 μg/ml) but still susceptible to posaconazole (MIC = 0.008 μg/ml) and caspofungin (MIC = 0.5 μg/ml). In conclusion, MALDI-TOF MS permitted the early selection of an unusual isolate, which was still unreported in molecular databases but could not be unambiguously classified based on phylogenetic approaches.
doi:10.1128/JCM.01627-12
PMCID: PMC3536206  PMID: 23077122
8.  Identification and Functional Characterization of Rca1, a Transcription Factor Involved in both Antifungal Susceptibility and Host Response in Candida albicans 
Eukaryotic Cell  2012;11(7):916-931.
The identification of novel transcription factors associated with antifungal response may allow the discovery of fungus-specific targets for new therapeutic strategies. A collection of 241 Candida albicans transcriptional regulator mutants was screened for altered susceptibility to fluconazole, caspofungin, amphotericin B, and 5-fluorocytosine. Thirteen of these mutants not yet identified in terms of their role in antifungal response were further investigated, and the function of one of them, a mutant of orf19.6102 (RCA1), was characterized by transcriptome analysis. Strand-specific RNA sequencing and phenotypic tests assigned Rca1 as the regulator of hyphal formation through the cyclic AMP/protein kinase A (cAMP/PKA) signaling pathway and the transcription factor Efg1, but also probably through its interaction with a transcriptional repressor, most likely Tup1. The mechanisms responsible for the high level of resistance to caspofungin and fluconazole observed resulting from RCA1 deletion were investigated. From our observations, we propose that caspofungin resistance was the consequence of the deregulation of cell wall gene expression and that fluconazole resistance was linked to the modulation of the cAMP/PKA signaling pathway activity. In conclusion, our large-scale screening of a C. albicans transcription factor mutant collection allowed the identification of new effectors of the response to antifungals. The functional characterization of Rca1 assigned this transcription factor and its downstream targets as promising candidates for the development of new therapeutic strategies, as Rca1 influences host sensing, hyphal development, and antifungal response.
doi:10.1128/EC.00134-12
PMCID: PMC3416494  PMID: 22581526
9.  In Vitro Effect of Malachite Green on Candida albicans Involves Multiple Pathways and Transcriptional Regulators UPC2 and STP2 
In this study, we show that a chemical dye, malachite green (MG), which is commonly used in the fish industry as an antifungal, antiparasitic, and antibacterial agent, could effectively kill Candida albicans and non-C. albicans species. We have demonstrated that Candida cells are susceptible to MG at a very low concentration (MIC that reduces growth by 50% [MIC50], 100 ng ml−1) and that the effect of MG is independent of known antifungal targets, such as ergosterol metabolism and major drug efflux pump proteins. Transcriptional profiling in response to MG treatment of C. albicans cells revealed that of a total of 207 responsive genes, 167 genes involved in oxidative stress, virulence, carbohydrate metabolism, heat shock, amino acid metabolism, etc., were upregulated, while 37 genes involved in iron acquisition, filamentous growth, mitochondrial respiration, etc., were downregulated. We confirmed experimentally that Candida cells exposed to MG resort to a fermentative mode of metabolism, perhaps due to defective respiration. In addition, we showed that MG triggers depletion of intracellular iron pools and enhances reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels. These effects could be reversed by the addition of iron or antioxidants, respectively. We provided evidence that the antifungal effect of MG is exerted through the transcription regulators UPC2 (regulating ergosterol biosynthesis and azole resistance) and STP2 (regulating amino acid permease genes). Taken together, our transcriptome, genetic, and biochemical results allowed us to decipher the multiple mechanisms by which MG exerts its anti-Candida effects, leading to a metabolic shift toward fermentation, increased generation of ROS, labile iron deprivation, and cell necrosis.
doi:10.1128/AAC.00574-11
PMCID: PMC3256066  PMID: 22006003
10.  Interrogation of Related Clinical Pan-Azole-Resistant Aspergillus fumigatus Strains: G138C, Y431C, and G434C Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms in cyp51A, Upregulation of cyp51A, and Integration and Activation of Transposon Atf1 in the cyp51A Promoter ▿ † 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2011;55(11):5113-5121.
Multiple Aspergillus fumigatus isolates from a patient with two aspergillomas complicating chronic pulmonary aspergillosis were pan-azole resistant. Microsatellite typing was identical for all isolates despite major phenotypic and some growth rate differences. Three different cyp51A mutations were found (G138C, Y431C, and G434C), of which the first two were demonstrated by heterologous expression in a hypersusceptible Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain to be at least partly responsible for elevated MICs. cyp51A and cyp51B gene duplication was excluded, but increased expression of cyp51A was demonstrated in three isolates selected for additional study (7-to 13-fold increases). In the isolate with the greatest cyp51A expression, an Aft1 transposon was found inserted 370 bp upstream of the start codon of the cyp51A gene, an integration location never previously demonstrated in Aspergillus. Two transcription start sites were identified at 49 and 136 bp upstream of the start codon. The role of the Aft1 transposon, if any, in modulating cyp51A expression remains to be established. Increased mRNA expression of the transporters AfuMDR1 and AfuMDR4 also was demonstrated in some isolates, which could contribute to azole resistance or simply represent a stress response. The diversity of confirmed and possible azole resistance mechanisms demonstrated in a single series of isogenic isolates is remarkable, indicating the ability of A. fumigatus to adapt in the clinical setting.
doi:10.1128/AAC.00517-11
PMCID: PMC3195044  PMID: 21876055
11.  The Quorum-Sensing Molecules Farnesol/Homoserine Lactone and Dodecanol Operate via Distinct Modes of Action in Candida albicans▿ 
Eukaryotic Cell  2011;10(8):1034-1042.
Living as a commensal, Candida albicans must adapt and respond to environmental cues generated by the mammalian host and by microbes comprising the natural flora. These signals have opposing effects on C. albicans, with host cues promoting the yeast-to-hyphal transition and bacteria-derived quorum-sensing molecules inhibiting hyphal development. Hyphal development is regulated through modulation of the cyclic AMP (cAMP)/protein kinase A (PKA) signaling pathway, and it has been postulated that quorum-sensing molecules can affect filamentation by inhibiting the cAMP pathway. Here, we show that both farnesol and 3-oxo-C12-homoserine lactone, a quorum-sensing molecule secreted by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, block hyphal development by affecting cAMP signaling; they both directly inhibited the activity of the Candida adenylyl cyclase, Cyr1p. In contrast, the 12-carbon alcohol dodecanol appeared to modulate hyphal development and the cAMP signaling pathway without directly affecting the activity of Cyr1p. Instead, we show that dodecanol exerted its effects through a mechanism involving the C. albicans hyphal repressor, Sfl1p. Deletion of SFL1 did not affect the response to farnesol but did interfere with the response to dodecanol. Therefore, quorum sensing in C. albicans is mediated via multiple mechanisms of action. Interestingly, our experiments raise the possibility that the Burkholderia cenocepacia diffusible signal factor, BDSF, also mediates its effects via Sfl1p, suggesting that dodecanol's mode of action, but not farnesol or 3-oxo-C12-homoserine lactone, may be used by other quorum-sensing molecules.
doi:10.1128/EC.05060-11
PMCID: PMC3165441  PMID: 21666074
12.  The bZIP Transcription Factor Rca1p Is a Central Regulator of a Novel CO2 Sensing Pathway in Yeast 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(1):e1002485.
Like many organisms the fungal pathogen Candida albicans senses changes in the environmental CO2 concentration. This response involves two major proteins: adenylyl cyclase and carbonic anhydrase (CA). Here, we demonstrate that CA expression is tightly controlled by the availability of CO2 and identify the bZIP transcription factor Rca1p as the first CO2 regulator of CA expression in yeast. We show that Rca1p upregulates CA expression during contact with mammalian phagocytes and demonstrate that serine 124 is critical for Rca1p signaling, which occurs independently of adenylyl cyclase. ChIP-chip analysis and the identification of Rca1p orthologs in the model yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Cst6p) point to the broad significance of this novel pathway in fungi. By using advanced microscopy we visualize for the first time the impact of CO2 build-up on gene expression in entire fungal populations with an exceptional level of detail. Our results present the bZIP protein Rca1p as the first fungal regulator of carbonic anhydrase, and reveal the existence of an adenylyl cyclase independent CO2 sensing pathway in yeast. Rca1p appears to regulate cellular metabolism in response to CO2 availability in environments as diverse as the phagosome, yeast communities or liquid culture.
Author Summary
Skin infection, oral and vaginal thrush, or bloodstream candidiasis are some of the diseases caused by the human pathogen Candida albicans. The high versatility of infection niches reflects the capacity of this yeast to respond to strong variations in its environment such as CO2 concentration. This molecule initiates the regulation of an essential protein: carbonic anhydrase, not through the known adenylyl cyclase CO2 sensor but as we discovered via a novel fungal CO2 sensing pathway involving the transcriptional regulator Rca1p. This protein is additionally implicated in growth, yeast-to-hyphae morphological switch and cell wall stability of C. albicans. The ortholog of Rca1p in Saccharomyces cerevisiae demonstrated a conserved function in the induction of the carbonic anhydrase in low CO2 concentration atmospheres pointing to the broad significance of Rca1p in fungal CO2 sensing.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002485
PMCID: PMC3257301  PMID: 22253597
13.  Farnesol-Induced Apoptosis in Candida albicans Is Mediated by Cdr1-p Extrusion and Depletion of Intracellular Glutathione 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28830.
Farnesol is a key derivative in the sterol biosynthesis pathway in eukaryotic cells previously identified as a quorum sensing molecule in the human fungal pathogen Candida albicans. Recently, we demonstrated that above threshold concentrations, farnesol is capable of triggering apoptosis in C. albicans. However, the exact mechanism of farnesol cytotoxicity is not fully elucidated. Lipophilic compounds such as farnesol are known to conjugate with glutathione, an antioxidant crucial for cellular detoxification against damaging compounds. Glutathione conjugates act as substrates for ATP-dependent ABC transporters and are extruded from the cell. To that end, this current study was undertaken to validate the hypothesis that farnesol conjugation with intracellular glutathione coupled with Cdr1p-mediated extrusion of glutathione conjugates, results in total glutathione depletion, oxidative stress and ultimately fungal cell death. The combined findings demonstrated a significant decrease in intracellular glutathione levels concomitant with up-regulation of CDR1 and decreased cell viability. However, addition of exogenous reduced glutathione maintained intracellular glutathione levels and enhanced viability. In contrast, farnesol toxicity was decreased in a mutant lacking CDR1, whereas it was increased in a CDR1-overexpressing strain. Further, gene expression studies demonstrated significant up-regulation of the SOD genes, primary enzymes responsible for defense against oxidative stress, with no changes in expression in CDR1. This is the first study describing the involvement of Cdr1p-mediated glutathione efflux as a mechanism preceding the farnesol-induced apoptotic process in C. albicans. Understanding of the mechanisms underlying farnesol-cytotoxicity in C. albicans may lead to the development of this redox-cycling agent as an alternative antifungal agent.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028830
PMCID: PMC3242750  PMID: 22205973
14.  Loss of Mitochondrial Functions Associated with Azole Resistance in Candida glabrata Results in Enhanced Virulence in Mice▿† 
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.
doi:10.1128/AAC.01271-10
PMCID: PMC3088236  PMID: 21321146
15.  In Vivo Systematic Analysis of Candida albicans Zn2-Cys6 Transcription Factors Mutants for Mice Organ Colonization 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26962.
The incidence of fungal infections in immuno-compromised patients increased considerably over the last 30 years. New treatments are therefore needed against pathogenic fungi. With Candida albicans as a model, study of host-fungal pathogen interactions might reveal new sources of therapies. Transcription factors (TF) are of interest since they integrate signals from the host environment and participate in an adapted microbial response. TFs of the Zn2-Cys6 class are specific to fungi and are important regulators of fungal metabolism. This work analyzed the importance of the C. albicans Zn2-Cys6 TF for mice kidney colonization. For this purpose, 77 Zn2-Cys6 TF mutants were screened in a systemic mice model of infection by pools of 10 mutants. We developed a simple barcoding strategy to specifically detect each mutant DNA from mice kidney by quantitative PCR. Among the 77 TF mutant strains tested, eight showed a decreased colonization including mutants for orf19.3405, orf19.255, orf19.5133, RGT1, UGA3, orf19.6182, SEF1 and orf19.2646, and four an increased colonization including mutants for orf19.4166, ZFU2, orf19.1685 and UPC2 as compared to the isogenic wild type strain. Our approach was validated by comparable results obtained with the same animal model using a single mutant and the revertant for an ORF (orf19.2646) with still unknown functions. In an attempt to identify putative involvement of such TFs in already known C. albicans virulence mechanisms, we determined their in vitro susceptibility to pH, heat and oxidative stresses, as well as ability to produce hyphae and invade agar. A poor correlation was found between in vitro and in vivo assays, thus suggesting that TFs needed for mice kidney colonization may involve still unknown mechanisms. This large-scale analysis of mice organ colonization by C. albicans can now be extended to other mutant libraries since our in vivo screening strategy can be adapted to any preexisting mutants.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026962
PMCID: PMC3205040  PMID: 22073120
16.  Voriconazole-Induced Inhibition of the Fungicidal Activity of Amphotericin B in Candida Strains with Reduced Susceptibility to Voriconazole: an Effect Not Predicted by the MIC Value Alone ▿  
An antagonistic effect of voriconazole on the fungicidal activity of sequential doses of amphotericin B has previously been demonstrated in Candida albicans strains susceptible to voriconazole. Because treatment failure and the need to switch to other antifungals are expected to occur more often in infections that are caused by resistant strains, it was of interest to study whether the antagonistic effect was still seen in Candida strains with reduced susceptibility to voriconazole. With the hypothesis that antagonism will not occur in voriconazole-resistant strains, C. albicans strains with characterized mechanisms of resistance against voriconazole, as well as Candida glabrata and Candida krusei strains with differences in their degrees of susceptibility to voriconazole were exposed to voriconazole or amphotericin B alone, to both drugs simultaneously, or to voriconazole followed by amphotericin B in an in vitro kinetic model. Amphotericin B administered alone or simultaneously with voriconazole resulted in fungicidal activity. When amphotericin B was administered after voriconazole, its activity was reduced (median reduction, 61%; range, 9 to 94%). Levels of voriconazole-dependent inhibition of amphotericin B activity differed significantly among the strains but were not correlated with the MIC values (correlation coefficient, −0.19; P = 0.65). Inhibition was found in C. albicans strains with increases in CDR1 and CDR2 expression but not in the strain with an increase in MDR1 expression. In summary, decreased susceptibility to voriconazole does not abolish voriconazole-dependent inhibition of the fungicidal activity of amphotericin B in voriconazole-resistant Candida strains. The degree of interaction could not be predicted by the MIC value alone.
doi:10.1128/AAC.00791-10
PMCID: PMC3067173  PMID: 21282443
17.  Ultra-Performance Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry and Sensitive Bioassay Methods for Quantification of Posaconazole Plasma Concentrations after Oral Dosing▿  
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2010;54(12):5074-5081.
Posaconazole (POS) is a new antifungal agent for prevention and therapy of mycoses in immunocompromised patients. Variable POS pharmacokinetics after oral dosing may influence efficacy: a trough threshold of 0.5 μg/ml has been recently proposed. Measurement of POS plasma concentrations by complex chromatographic techniques may thus contribute to optimize prevention and management of life-threatening infections. No microbiological analytical method is available. The objective of this study was to develop and validate a new simplified ultra-performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS) method and a sensitive bioassay for quantification of POS over the clinical plasma concentration range. The UPLC-MS/MS equipment consisted of a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer, an electrospray ionization (ESI) source, and a C18 analytical column. The Candida albicans POS-hypersusceptible mutant (MIC of 0.002 μg/ml) Δcdr1 Δcdr2 Δflu Δmdr1 Δcan constructed by targeted deletion of multidrug efflux transporters and calcineurin genes was used for the bioassay. POS was extracted from plasma by protein precipitation with acetonitrile-methanol (75%/25%, vol/vol). Reproducible standard curves were obtained over the range 0.014 to 12 (UPLC-MS/MS) and 0.028 to 12 μg/ml (bioassay). Intra- and interrun accuracy levels were 106% ± 2% and 103% ± 4% for UPLC-MS/MS and 102% ± 8% and 104% ± 1% for bioassay, respectively. The intra- and interrun coefficients of variation were 7% ± 4% and 7% ± 3% for UPLC-MS/MS and 5% ± 3% and 4% ± 2% for bioassay, respectively. An excellent correlation between POS plasma concentrations measured by UPLC-MS/MS and bioassay was found (concordance, 0.96). In 26 hemato-oncological patients receiving oral POS, 27/69 (39%) trough plasma concentrations were lower than 0.5 μg/ml. The UPLC-MS/MS method and sensitive bioassay offer alternative tools for accurate and precise quantification of the plasma concentrations in patients receiving oral posaconazole.
doi:10.1128/AAC.00022-10
PMCID: PMC2981256  PMID: 20921320
18.  Genome-wide expression profiling of the response to short-term exposure to fluconazole in Cryptococcus neoformans serotype A 
BMC Microbiology  2011;11:97.
Background
Fluconazole (FLC), a triazole antifungal drug, is widely used for the maintenance therapy of cryptococcal meningoencephalitis, the most common opportunistic infection in AIDS patients. In this study, we examined changes in the gene expression profile of the C. neoformans reference strain H99 (serotype A) following FLC treatment in order to investigate the adaptive cellular responses to drug stress.
Results
Simultaneous analysis of over 6823 transcripts revealed that 476 genes were responsive to FLC. As expected up-regulation of genes involved in ergosterol biosynthesis was observed, including the azole target gene ERG11 and ERG13, ERG1, ERG7, ERG25, ERG2, ERG3 and ERG5. In addition, SRE1 which is a gene encoding a well-known regulator of sterol homeostasis in C. neoformans was up-regulated. Several other genes such as those involved in a variety of important cellular processes (i.e. lipid and fatty acid metabolism, cell wall maintenance, stress and virulence) were found to be up-regulated in response to FLC treatment. Conversely, expression of AFR1, the major transporter of azoles in C. neoformans, was not regulated by FLC.
Conclusions
Short-term exposure of C. neoformans to FLC resulted in a complex altered gene expression profile. Some of the observed changes could represent specific adaptive responses to the antifungal agent in this pathogenic yeast.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-11-97
PMCID: PMC3119188  PMID: 21569340
19.  Contribution of CgPDR1-Regulated Genes in Enhanced Virulence of Azole-Resistant Candida glabrata 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e17589.
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017589
PMCID: PMC3052359  PMID: 21408004
20.  Comparative Genomics Suggests that the Fungal Pathogen Pneumocystis Is an Obligate Parasite Scavenging Amino Acids from Its Host's Lungs 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e15152.
Pneumocystis jirovecii is a fungus causing severe pneumonia in immuno-compromised patients. Progress in understanding its pathogenicity and epidemiology has been hampered by the lack of a long-term in vitro culture method. Obligate parasitism of this pathogen has been suggested on the basis of various features but remains controversial. We analysed the 7.0 Mb draft genome sequence of the closely related species Pneumocystis carinii infecting rats, which is a well established experimental model of the disease. We predicted 8’085 (redundant) peptides and 14.9% of them were mapped onto the KEGG biochemical pathways. The proteome of the closely related yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe was used as a control for the annotation procedure (4’974 genes, 14.1% mapped). About two thirds of the mapped peptides of each organism (65.7% and 73.2%, respectively) corresponded to crucial enzymes for the basal metabolism and standard cellular processes. However, the proportion of P. carinii genes relative to those of S. pombe was significantly smaller for the “amino acid metabolism” category of pathways than for all other categories taken together (40 versus 114 against 278 versus 427, P<0.002). Importantly, we identified in P. carinii only 2 enzymes specifically dedicated to the synthesis of the 20 standard amino acids. By contrast all the 54 enzymes dedicated to this synthesis reported in the KEGG atlas for S. pombe were detected upon reannotation of S. pombe proteome (2 versus 54 against 278 versus 427, P<0.0001). This finding strongly suggests that species of the genus Pneumocystis are scavenging amino acids from their host's lung environment. Consequently, they would have no form able to live independently from another organism, and these parasites would be obligate in addition to being opportunistic. These findings have implications for the management of patients susceptible to P. jirovecii infection given that the only source of infection would be other humans.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0015152
PMCID: PMC3004796  PMID: 21188143
21.  Genetic Dissection of Azole Resistance Mechanisms in Candida albicans and Their Validation in a Mouse Model of Disseminated Infection▿ †  
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.
doi:10.1128/AAC.01645-09
PMCID: PMC2849354  PMID: 20086148
22.  Functional Analysis of cis- and trans-Acting Elements of the Candida albicans CDR2 Promoter with a Novel Promoter Reporter System ▿ †  
Eukaryotic Cell  2009;8(8):1250-1267.
Azole resistance in Candida albicans can be mediated by the upregulation of the ATP binding cassette transporter genes CDR1 and CDR2. Both genes are regulated by a cis-acting element called the drug-responsive element (DRE), with the consensus sequence 5′-CGGAWATCGGATATTTTTTT-3′, and the transcription factor Tac1p. In order to analyze in detail the DRE sequence necessary for the regulation of CDR1 and CDR2 and properties of TAC1 alleles, a one-hybrid system was designed. This system is based on a P(CDR2)-HIS3 reporter system in which complementation of histidine auxotrophy can be monitored by activation of the reporter system by CDR2-inducing drugs such as estradiol. Our results show that most of the modifications within the DRE, but especially at the level of CGG triplets, strongly reduce CDR2 expression. The CDR2 DRE was replaced by putative DREs deduced from promoters of coregulated genes (CDR1, RTA3, and IFU5). Surprisingly, even if Tac1p was able to bind these putative DREs, as shown by chromatin immunoprecipitation, those from RTA3 and IFU5 did not functionally replace the CDR2 DRE. The one-hybrid system was also used for the identification of gain-of-function (GOF) mutations either in TAC1 alleles from clinical C. albicans isolates or inserted in TAC1 wild-type alleles by random mutagenesis. In all, 17 different GOF mutations were identified at 13 distinct positions. Five of them (G980E, N972D, A736V, T225A, and N977D) have already been described in clinical isolates, and four others (G980W, A736T, N972S, and N972I) occurred at already-described positions, thus suggesting that GOF mutations can occur in a limited number of positions in Tac1p. In conclusion, the one-hybrid system developed here is rapid and powerful and can be used for characterization of cis- and trans-acting elements in C. albicans.
doi:10.1128/EC.00069-09
PMCID: PMC2725566  PMID: 19561319
23.  Reliability of the Vitek 2 Yeast Susceptibility Test for Detection of In Vitro Resistance to Fluconazole and Voriconazole in Clinical Isolates of Candida albicans and Candida glabrata▿ † 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2009;47(6):1927-1930.
The Vitek 2 yeast susceptibility test was evaluated by testing 122 Candida isolates against fluconazole and voriconazole. Excellent categorical agreement with the CLSI broth microdilution method was observed (97.5% for both the azoles). Moreover, the Vitek 2 system was able to identify all but 2 of 59 investigated fluconazole-resistant organisms.
doi:10.1128/JCM.02070-08
PMCID: PMC2691097  PMID: 19403774
24.  Gain of Function Mutations in CgPDR1 of Candida glabrata Not Only Mediate Antifungal Resistance but Also Enhance Virulence 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(1):e1000268.
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.
Author Summary
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1000268
PMCID: PMC2607542  PMID: 19148266
25.  Genotypic Evolution of Azole Resistance Mechanisms in Sequential Candida albicans Isolates▿ †  
Eukaryotic Cell  2007;6(10):1889-1904.
TAC1 (for transcriptional activator of CDR genes) is critical for the upregulation of the ABC transporters CDR1 and CDR2, which mediate azole resistance in Candida albicans. While a wild-type TAC1 allele drives high expression of CDR1/2 in response to inducers, we showed previously that TAC1 can be hyperactive by a gain-of-function (GOF) point mutation responsible for constitutive high expression of CDR1/2. High azole resistance levels are achieved when C. albicans carries hyperactive alleles only as a consequence of loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at the TAC1 locus on chromosome 5 (Chr 5), which is linked to the mating-type-like (MTL) locus. Both are located on the Chr 5 left arm along with ERG11 (target of azoles). In this work, five groups of related isolates containing azole-susceptible and -resistant strains were analyzed for the TAC1 and ERG11 alleles and for Chr 5 alterations. While recovered ERG11 alleles contained known mutations, 17 new TAC1 alleles were isolated, including 7 hyperactive alleles with five separate new GOF mutations. Single-nucleotide-polymorphism analysis of Chr 5 revealed that azole-resistant strains acquired TAC1 hyperactive alleles and, in most cases, ERG11 mutant alleles by LOH events not systematically including the MTL locus. TAC1 LOH resulted from mitotic recombination of the left arm of Chr 5, gene conversion within the TAC1 locus, or the loss and reduplication of the entire Chr 5. In one case, two independent TAC1 hyperactive alleles were acquired. Comparative genome hybridization and karyotype analysis revealed the presence of isochromosome 5L [i(5L)] in two azole-resistant strains. i(5L) leads to increased copy numbers of azole resistance genes present on the left arm of Chr 5, among them TAC1 and ERG11. Our work shows that azole resistance was due not only to the presence of specific mutations in azole resistance genes (at least ERG11 and TAC1) but also to their increase in copy number by LOH and to the addition of extra Chr 5 copies. With the combination of these different modifications, sophisticated genotypes were obtained. The development of azole resistance in C. albicans is therefore a powerful instrument for generating genetic diversity.
doi:10.1128/EC.00151-07
PMCID: PMC2043391  PMID: 17693596

Results 1-25 (54)