Matthew W. Pavesic, Andrew N. Gale, Timothy J. Nickels, Abigail A. Harrington, Maya Bussey, Kyle W. Cunningham

Calcineurin-dependent contributions to fitness in the opportunistic pathogen Candida glabrata

  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology

ABSTRACT The protein phosphatase calcineurin is vital for the virulence of the opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida glabrata . The host-induced stresses that activate calcineurin signaling are unknown, as are the targets of calcineurin relevant to virulence. To potentially shed light on these processes, millions of transposon insertion mutants throughout the genome of C. glabrata were profiled en masse for fitness defects in the presence of FK506, a specific inhibitor of calcineurin. Eighty-seven specific gene deficiencies depended on calcineurin signaling for full viability in vitro both in wild-type and pdr1∆ null strains lacking pleiotropic drug resistance. Three genes involved in cell wall biosynthesis ( FKS1 , DCW1 , FLC1 ) possess co-essential paralogs whose expression depended on calcineurin and Crz1 in response to micafungin, a clinical antifungal that interferes with cell wall biogenesis. Interestingly, 80% of the FK506-sensitive mutants were deficient in different aspects of vesicular trafficking, such as endocytosis, exocytosis, sorting, and biogenesis of secretory proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). In response to the experimental antifungal manogepix that blocks GPI-anchor biosynthesis in the ER, calcineurin signaling increased and strongly prevented cell death independent of Crz1, one of its major targets. Comparisons between manogepix, micafungin, and the ER-stressing tunicamycin reveal a correlation between the degree of calcineurin signaling and the degree of cell survival. These findings suggest that calcineurin plays major roles in mitigating stresses of vesicular trafficking. Such stresses may arise during host infection and in response to antifungal therapies. IMPORTANCE Calcineurin plays critical roles in the virulence of most pathogenic fungi. This study sheds light on those roles in the opportunistic pathogen Candida glabrata using a genome-wide analysis in vitro . The findings could lead to antifungal developments that also avoid immunosuppression.

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