Disruption of ergosterol biosynthesis confers resistance to amphotericin B in Candida lusitaniae

  • Young L
  • Hull C
  • Heitman J
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Candida lusitaniae is an emerging human pathogen that, unlike other fungal pathogens, frequently develops resistance to the commonly used antifungal agent amphotericin B. Amphotericin B is a member of the polyene class of antifungal drugs, which impair fungal cell membrane integrity. Here we analyzed mechanisms contributing to amphotericin B resistance in C. lusitaniae. Sensitivity to polyenes in the related fungi Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Candida albicans requires the ergosterol biosynthetic gene ERG6. In an effort to understand the mechanisms contributing to amphotericin B resistance in C. lusitaniae, we isolated the ERG6 gene and created a C. lusitaniae erg6 delta strain. This mutant strain exhibited a growth defect, was resistant to amphotericin B, and was hypersensitive to other sterol inhibitors. Based on the similarities between the phenotypes of the erg6 delta mutant and clinical isolates of C. lusitaniae resistant to amphotericin B, we analyzed ERG6 expression levels and ergosterol content in multiple clinical isolates. C. lusitaniae amphotericin B-resistant isolates were found to have increased levels of ERG6 transcript as well as reduced ergosterol content. These changes suggest that another gene in the ergosterol biosynthetic pathway could be mutated or misregulated. Further transcript analysis showed that expression of the ERG3 gene, which encodes C-5 sterol desaturase, was reduced in two amphotericin B-resistant isolates. Our findings reveal that mutation or altered expression of ergosterol biosynthetic genes can result in resistance to amphotericin B in C. lusitaniae.

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  • Laura Y. Young

  • Christina M. Hull

  • Joseph Heitman

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