[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The balance between saturated and unsaturated fatty acids plays a crucial role in determining the membrane fluidity. In the diploid fungal pathogen Candida albicans, the gene for fatty acid Delta9 desaturase, OLE1, is essential for viability. Using a reverse genetic approach, termed the fitness test, we identified a group of structurally related synthetic compounds that induce specific hypersensitivity of the OLE1(+/-) strain. Genetic repression of OLE1 and chemical inhibition by two selected compounds, ECC145 and ECC188, resulted in a marked decrease in the total unsaturated fatty acids and impaired hyphal development. The resulting auxotroph of both was suppressed by the exogenous monounsaturated fatty acids (16:1Delta9 and 18:1Delta9). These correlations suggest that both compounds affect the level of unsaturated fatty acids, likely by impairing Ole1p directly or indirectly. However, the residual levels of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) resulted from chemical inhibition were significantly higher than OLE1 repression, indicating even partial inhibition of MUFAs is sufficient to stop cellular proliferation. Although the essentiality of OLE1 was suppressed by MUFAs in vitro, we demonstrated that it was required for virulence in a murine model of systemic candidiasis even when the animals were supplemented with a high fat diet. Thus, the fungal fatty acid desaturase is an attractive antifungal drug target. Taking advantage of the inhibitors and the relevant conditional shut-off strains, we validated several chemical genetic interactions observed in the fitness test profiles that reveal novel genetic interactions between OLE1/unsaturated fatty acids and other cellular processes.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Natural products provide an unparalleled source of chemical scaffolds with diverse biological activities and have profoundly impacted antimicrobial drug discovery. To further explore the full potential of their chemical diversity, we survey natural products for antifungal, target-specific inhibitors by using a chemical-genetic approach adapted to the human fungal pathogen Candida albicans and demonstrate that natural-product fermentation extracts can be mechanistically annotated according to heterozygote strain responses. Applying this approach, we report the discovery and characterization of a natural product, parnafungin, which we demonstrate, by both biochemical and genetic means, to inhibit poly(A) polymerase. Parnafungin displays potent and broad spectrum activity against diverse, clinically relevant fungal pathogens and reduces fungal burden in a murine model of disseminated candidiasis. Thus, mechanism-of-action determination of crude fermentation extracts by chemical-genetic profiling brings a powerful strategy to natural-product-based drug discovery.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mechanism-of-action (MOA) studies of bioactive compounds are fundamental to drug discovery. However, in vitro studies alone may not recapitulate a compound's MOA in whole cells. Here, we apply a chemogenomics approach in Candida albicans to evaluate compounds affecting purine metabolism. They include the IMP dehydrogenase inhibitors mycophenolic acid and mizoribine and the previously reported GMP synthase inhibitors acivicin and 6-diazo-5-oxo-L-norleucine (DON). We report important aspects of their whole-cell activity, including their primary target, off-target activity, and drug metabolism. Further, we describe ECC1385, an inhibitor of GMP synthase, and provide biochemical and genetic evidence supporting its MOA to be distinct from acivicin or DON. Importantly, GMP synthase activity is conditionally essential in C. albicans and Aspergillus fumigatus and is required for virulence of both pathogens, thus constituting an unexpected antifungal target.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Aspergillus fumigatus is the most prevalent airborne filamentous fungal pathogen in humans, causing severe and often fatal invasive infections in immunocompromised patients. Currently available antifungal drugs to treat invasive aspergillosis have limited modes of action, and few are safe and effective. To identify and prioritize antifungal drug targets, we have developed a conditional promoter replacement (CPR) strategy using the nitrogen-regulated A. fumigatus NiiA promoter (pNiiA). The gene essentiality for 35 A. fumigatus genes was directly demonstrated by this pNiiA-CPR strategy from a set of 54 genes representing broad biological functions whose orthologs are confirmed to be essential for growth in Candida albicans and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Extending this approach, we show that the ERG11 gene family (ERG11A and ERG11B) is essential in A. fumigatus despite neither member being essential individually. In addition, we demonstrate the pNiiA-CPR strategy is suitable for in vivo phenotypic analyses, as a number of conditional mutants, including an ERG11 double mutant (erg11BDelta, pNiiA-ERG11A), failed to establish a terminal infection in an immunocompromised mouse model of systemic aspergillosis. Collectively, the pNiiA-CPR strategy enables a rapid and reliable means to directly identify, phenotypically characterize, and facilitate target-based whole cell assays to screen A. fumigatus essential genes for cognate antifungal inhibitors.