The proteomic response of Aspergillus fumigatus to caspofungin was evaluated by gel-free isobaric tagging for relative and absolute quantitation (iTRAQ) as a means to determine potential biomarkers of drug action. A cell fractionation approach yielding 4 subcellular compartment fractions was used to enhance the resolution of proteins for proteomic analysis. Using iTRAQ, a total of 471 unique proteins were identified in soluble and cell wall/plasma membrane fractions at 24 and 48 h of growth in rich media in a wild-type drug-susceptible strain. A total of 122 proteins showed at least a 2-fold change in relative abundance following exposure to caspofungin (CSF) at just below the minimum effective concentration (0.12 μg/ml). The largest changes were seen in the mitochondrial hypoxia response domain protein (AFUA_1G12250), the level of which decreased >16-fold in the secreted fraction, and ChiA1, the level of which decreased 12.1-fold in the cell wall/plasma membrane fraction. The level of the major allergen and cytotoxin AspF1 was also shown to decrease by 12.1-fold upon the addition of drug. A subsequent iTRAQ analysis of an echinocandin-resistant strain (fks1-S678P) was used to validate proteins specific to drug action. A total of 103 proteins in the 2 fractions tested by iTRAQ were differentially expressed in the wild-type susceptible strain but not significantly changed in the resistant strain. Of these potential biomarkers, 11 had levels that changed at least 12-fold. Microarray analysis of the susceptible strain was performed to evaluate the correlation between proteomics and genomics, with a total of 117 genes found to be changing at least 2-fold. Of these, a total of 22 proteins with significant changes identified by iTRAQ also showed significant gene expression level changes by microarray. Overall, these data have the potential to identify biomarkers that assess the relative efficacy of echinocandin drug therapy.
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