Anna Floyd Averette

Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, United States

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Publications (9)41.4 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Candida tropicalis, a closely related species of Candida albicans, is an emerging fungal pathogen associated with high mortality rates of 40 to 70%. Like C. albicans and Candida dubliniensis, C. tropicalis is able to form germ tubes, pseudohyphae and hyphae, but genes involved in hyphal growth machinery and virulence remain unclear in C. tropicalis. Recently, echinocandin- and azole-resistant C. tropicalis isolates have been frequently isolated from various patients around the world, making treatment difficult. However, studies of C. tropicalis genes involved in drug tolerance are limited. Here, we investigated the roles of calcineurin and its potential target Crz1 for core stress responses and pathogenesis in C. tropicalis. We demonstrate that calcineurin and Crz1 are required for hyphal growth, micafungin tolerance and virulence in a murine systemic infection model, while calcineurin but not Crz1 is essential for tolerance of azoles, caspofungin, anidulafungin, and cell wall perturbing agents, suggesting that calcineurin has both Crz1-dependent and -independent functions in C. tropicalis. In addition, we found that calcineurin and Crz1 have opposite roles in controlling calcium tolerance. Calcineurin serves as a negative regulator, while Crz1 plays a positive role for calcium tolerance in C. tropicalis.
    Eukaryotic Cell 01/2014; · 3.59 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: ABSTRACT Malassezia commensal yeasts are associated with a number of skin disorders, such as atopic eczema/dermatitis and dandruff, and they also can cause systemic infections. Here we describe the 7.67-Mbp genome of Malassezia sympodialis, a species associated with atopic eczema, and contrast its genome repertoire with that of Malassezia globosa, associated with dandruff, as well as those of other closely related fungi. Ninety percent of the predicted M. sympodialis protein coding genes were experimentally verified by mass spectrometry at the protein level. We identified a relatively limited number of genes related to lipid biosynthesis, and both species lack the fatty acid synthase gene, in line with the known requirement of these yeasts to assimilate lipids from the host. Malassezia species do not appear to have many cell wall-localized glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) proteins and lack other cell wall proteins previously identified in other fungi. This is surprising given that in other fungi these proteins have been shown to mediate interactions (e.g., adhesion and biofilm formation) with the host. The genome revealed a complex evolutionary history for an allergen of unknown function, Mala s 7, shown to be encoded by a member of an amplified gene family of secreted proteins. Based on genetic and biochemical studies with the basidiomycete human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans, we characterized the allergen Mala s 6 as the cytoplasmic cyclophilin A. We further present evidence that M. sympodialis may have the capacity to undergo sexual reproduction and present a model for a pseudobipolar mating system that allows limited recombination between two linked MAT loci. IMPORTANCE Malassezia commensal yeasts are associated with a number of skin disorders. The previously published genome of M. globosa provided some of the first insights into Malassezia biology and its involvement in dandruff. Here, we present the genome of M. sympodialis, frequently isolated from patients with atopic eczema and healthy individuals. We combined comparative genomics with sequencing and functional characterization of specific genes in a population of clinical isolates and in closely related model systems. Our analyses provide insights into the evolution of allergens related to atopic eczema and the evolutionary trajectory of the machinery for sexual reproduction and meiosis. We hypothesize that M. sympodialis may undergo sexual reproduction, which has important implications for the understanding of the life cycle and virulence potential of this medically important yeast. Our findings provide a foundation for the development of genetic and genomic tools to elucidate host-microbe interactions that occur on the skin and to identify potential therapeutic targets.
    mBio 12/2013; · 6.88 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The object of this study was to test whether posaconazole, a broad-spectrum antifungal agent inhibiting ergosterol biosynthesis, exhibits synergy with the β-1,3 glucan synthase inhibitor caspofungin or the calcineurin inhibitor FK506 against the human fungal pathogen . Although current drug treatments for infection are often efficacious, the available antifungal armamentarium may not be keeping pace with the increasing incidence of drug resistant strains. The development of drug combinations or novel antifungal drugs to address emerging drug resistance is therefore of general importance. Combination drug therapies are employed to treat patients with HIV, cancer, or tuberculosis, and has considerable promise in the treatment of fungal infections like cryptococcal meningitis and infections. Our studies reported here demonstrate that posaconazole exhibits synergy with caspofungin or FK506 against drug susceptible or resistant strains. Furthermore, these combinations also show synergy against strain SC5314 and its derived echinocandin-resistant mutants, which harbor an S645Y mutation in the CaFks1 β-1,3 glucan synthase drug target, suggesting potential therapeutic applicability for these combinations in the future.
    PLoS ONE 03/2013; 8(3):e57672. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The pathogenic yeast , which is causing an outbreak in the Pacific Northwest region of North America, causes life-threatening pulmonary infections and meningoencephalitis in healthy individuals, unlike , which commonly infects immunocompromised patients. In addition to a greater predilection for to infect healthy hosts, the genome sequence project revealed extensive chromosomal rearrangements compared with , showing genomic differences between the two species. We investigated the roles of calcineurin in three molecular types: VGIIa (R265), VGIIb (R272), and VGI (WM276). We found that calcineurin exhibits a differential requirement for growth on solid medium at 37°, as calcineurin mutants generated from R265 were more thermotolerant than mutants from R272 and WM276. We demonstrated that tolerance to calcineurin inhibitors (FK506, CsA) at 37° is linked with the VGIIa molecular type. The calcineurin mutants from the R272 background showed the most extensive growth and morphological defects (multivesicle and larger ring-like cells), as well as increased fluconazole susceptibility. Our cellular architecture examination showed that and calcineurin mutants exhibit plasma membrane disruptions. Calcineurin in the VGII molecular type plays a greater role in controlling cation homeostasis compared with that in VGI and H99. Importantly, we demonstrate that calcineurin is essential for virulence in a murine inhalation model, supporting calcineurin as an attractive antifungal drug target.
    G3-Genes Genomes Genetics 03/2013; 3(3):527-39. · 1.79 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Blastomyces dermatitidis is a dimorphic fungal pathogen that primarily causes blastomycosis in the mid-west and northern United States and Canada. While sexual development has been known for a long time, the genes controlling sexual reproduction of B. dermatitidis (teleomorph: Ajellomyces dermatitidis) are unknown. We identified the mating type (MAT) locus in the B. dermatitidis genome by comparative genomic approaches. The B. dermatitidis MAT locus resembles those of other dimorphic fungi, containing either an alpha-box (MAT1-1) or an HMG domain (MAT1-2) gene linked to the APN2, SLA2, and COX13 genes. However, in some strains of B. dermatitidis the MAT locus harbors transposable elements (TEs) that makes it unusually large compared to the MAT locus of other dimorphic fungi. Based on the MAT locus sequences of B. dermatitidis, we designed specific primers for PCR determination of mating type. Two B. dermatitidis isolates of opposite mating types were co-cultured on mating medium. Immature sexual structures were observed starting at three weeks of co-culture, with coiled-hyphae-containing cleistothecia developing over the next three to six weeks. Genetic recombination was detected in potential progeny by mating type determination, PCR-RFLP, and RAPD (random amplification of polymorphic DNA) analyses, suggesting that a meiotic sexual cycle might have been completed. The F1 progeny were sexually fertile when tested with strains of the opposite mating type. Our studies provide a model for the evolution of the MAT locus in the dimorphic and closely related fungi, and open the door to classic genetic analysis and studies on the possible roles of mating in infection and virulence.
    Eukaryotic Cell 11/2012; · 3.59 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Sexual reproduction in fungi is governed by a specialized genomic region called the mating-type locus (MAT). The human fungal pathogenic and basidiomycetous yeast Cryptococcus neoformans has evolved a bipolar mating system (a, α) in which the MAT locus is unusually large (>100 kb) and encodes >20 genes including homeodomain (HD) and pheromone/receptor (P/R) genes. To understand how this unique bipolar mating system evolved, we investigated MAT in the closely related species Tsuchiyaea wingfieldii and Cryptococcus amylolentus and discovered two physically unlinked loci encoding the HD and P/R genes. Interestingly, the HD (B) locus sex-specific region is restricted (∼2 kb) and encodes two linked and divergently oriented homeodomain genes in contrast to the solo HD genes (SXI1α, SXI2a) of C. neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii. The P/R (A) locus contains the pheromone and pheromone receptor genes but has expanded considerably compared to other outgroup species (Cryptococcus heveanensis) and is linked to many of the genes also found in the MAT locus of the pathogenic Cryptococcus species. Our discovery of a heterothallic sexual cycle for C. amylolentus allowed us to establish the biological roles of the sex-determining regions. Matings between two strains of opposite mating-types (A1B1×A2B2) produced dikaryotic hyphae with fused clamp connections, basidia, and basidiospores. Genotyping progeny using markers linked and unlinked to MAT revealed that meiosis and uniparental mitochondrial inheritance occur during the sexual cycle of C. amylolentus. The sexual cycle is tetrapolar and produces fertile progeny of four mating-types (A1B1, A1B2, A2B1, and A2B2), but a high proportion of progeny are infertile, and fertility is biased towards one parental mating-type (A1B1). Our studies reveal insights into the plasticity and transitions in both mechanisms of sex determination (bipolar versus tetrapolar) and sexual reproduction (outcrossing versus inbreeding) with implications for similar evolutionary transitions and processes in fungi, plants, and animals.
    PLoS Genetics 02/2012; 8(2):e1002528. · 8.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Natural hybridization between two strains, varieties, or species is a common phenomenon in both plants and animals. Although hybridization may skew established gene pools, it generates population diversity efficiently and sometimes results in the emergence of newly adapted genotypes. Cryptococcus neoformans, which causes the most frequent opportunistic fungal infection in immunocompromised hosts, has three serotypes: A, D, and AD. Serotype-specific multilocus sequence typing and serotype-specific comparative genome hybridization were applied to investigate the genetic variability and genomic organization of C. neoformans serotype AD isolates. We confirm that C. neoformans serotype AD isolates are hybrids of serotype A and D strains. Compared with haploid strains, most AD hybrid isolates exhibit unique multilocus sequence typing genotypes, suggesting that multiple independent hybridization events punctuated the origin and evolutionary trajectory of AD hybrids. The MATa alleles from both haploid and AD hybrid isolates group closely to form a cluster or subcluster in both the serotype A and D populations. The rare and unique distribution of MATa alleles may restrict sexual reproduction between isolates of opposite mating types. The genetic diversity of the serotype D population, including haploid strains and serotype D genomes of the AD hybrid, is significantly greater than that of serotype A, and there are signatures of recombination within the serotype D population. Given that MATa isolates are relatively rare, both opposite-sex and same-sex mating may contribute to genetic recombination of serotype D in nature. Extensive chromosome loss was observed in AD hybrid isolates, which results in loss of heterozygosity in the otherwise-heterozygous AD hybrid genome. Most AD hybrid isolates exhibit hybrid vigor and are resistant to the antifungal drug FK506. In addition, the C. neoformans AD hybrid genome is highly dynamic, with continuous chromosome loss, which may be a facile route for pathogen evolution through which genotypic and phenotypic variation is generated.
    G3-Genes Genomes Genetics 01/2012; 2(1):83-97. · 1.79 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Apoptosis is a form of programmed cell death critical for development and homeostasis in multicellular organisms. Apoptosis-like cell death (ALCD) has been described in several fungi, including the opportunistic human pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. In addition, capsular polysaccharides of C. neoformans are known to induce apoptosis in host immune cells, thereby contributing to its virulence. Our goals were to characterize the apoptotic signaling cascade in C. neoformans as well as its unique features compared to the host machinery to exploit the endogenous fungal apoptotic pathways as a novel antifungal strategy in the future. The dissection of apoptotic pathways revealed that apoptosis-inducing factor (Aif1) and metacaspases (Mca1 and Mca2) are independently required for ALCD in C. neoformans. We show that the apoptotic pathways are required for cell fusion and sporulation during mating, indicating that apoptosis may occur during sexual development. Previous studies showed that antifungal drugs induce ALCD in fungi and that C. neoformans adapts to high concentrations of the antifungal fluconazole (FLC) by acquisition of aneuploidy, especially duplication of chromosome 1 (Chr1). Disruption of aif1, but not the metacaspases, stimulates the emergence of aneuploid subpopulations with Chr1 disomy that are resistant to fluconazole (FLC(R)) in vitro and in vivo. FLC(R) isolates in the aif1 background are stable in the absence of the drug, while those in the wild-type background readily revert to FLC sensitivity. We propose that apoptosis orchestrated by Aif1 might eliminate aneuploid cells from the population and defects in this pathway contribute to the selection of aneuploid FLC(R) subpopulations during treatment. Aneuploid clinical isolates with disomies for chromosomes other than Chr1 exhibit reduced AIF1 expression, suggesting that inactivation of Aif1 might be a novel aneuploidy-tolerating mechanism in fungi that facilitates the selection of antifungal drug resistance.
    PLoS Pathogens 11/2011; 7(11):e1002364. · 8.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Candida dubliniensis is an emerging pathogenic yeast species closely related to Candida albicans and frequently found colonizing or infecting the oral cavities of HIV/AIDS patients. Drug resistance during C. dubliniensis infection is common and constitutes a significant therapeutic challenge. The calcineurin inhibitor FK506 exhibits synergistic fungicidal activity with azoles or echinocandins in the fungal pathogens C. albicans, Cryptococcus neoformans, and Aspergillus fumigatus. In this study, we show that calcineurin is required for cell wall integrity and wild-type tolerance of C. dubliniensis to azoles and echinocandins; hence, these drugs are candidates for combination therapy with calcineurin inhibitors. In contrast to C. albicans, in which the roles of calcineurin and Crz1 in hyphal growth are unclear, here we show that calcineurin and Crz1 play a clearly demonstrable role in hyphal growth in response to nutrient limitation in C. dubliniensis. We further demonstrate that thigmotropism is controlled by Crz1, but not calcineurin, in C. dubliniensis. Similar to C. albicans, C. dubliniensis calcineurin enhances survival in serum. C. dubliniensis calcineurin and crz1/crz1 mutants exhibit attenuated virulence in a murine systemic infection model, likely attributable to defects in cell wall integrity, hyphal growth, and serum survival. Furthermore, we show that C. dubliniensis calcineurin mutants are unable to establish murine ocular infection or form biofilms in a rat denture model. That calcineurin is required for drug tolerance and virulence makes fungus-specific calcineurin inhibitors attractive candidates for combination therapy with azoles or echinocandins against emerging C. dubliniensis infections.
    Eukaryotic Cell 06/2011; 10(6):803-19. · 3.59 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

69 Citations
41.40 Total Impact Points


  • 2011–2013
    • Duke University Medical Center
      • Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
      Durham, North Carolina, United States
    • University of Aberdeen
      • Institute of Medical Sciences
      Aberdeen, SCT, United Kingdom
  • 2012
    • National Human Genome Research Institute
      Maryland, United States