Echinocandins such as caspofungin are frontline antifungal drugs that compromise β-1,3 glucan synthesis in the cell wall. Recent reports have shown that fungal cells can resist killing by caspofungin by upregulation of chitin synthesis, thereby sustaining cell wall integrity (CWI). When echinocandins are removed, the chitin content of cells quickly returns to basal levels, suggesting that there is a fitness cost associated with having elevated levels of chitin in the cell wall. We show here that simultaneous activation of the calcineurin and CWI pathways generates a subpopulation of Candida albicans yeast cells that have supra-normal chitin levels interspersed throughout the inner and outer cell wall, and that these cells are non-viable, perhaps due to loss of wall elasticity required for cell expansion and growth. Mutations in the Ca2+-calcineurin pathway prevented the formation of these non-viable supra-high chitin cells by negatively regulating chitin synthesis driven by the CWI pathway. The Ca2+-calcineurin pathway may therefore act as an attenuator that prevents the overproduction of chitin by coordinating both chitin upregulation and negative regulation of the CWI signaling pathway.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Carol Munro for helpful discussions during the research, Raif Yuecel, Elizabeth Adams, Linda Duncan, Barry Lewis and Kimberley Sim for assistance with FACS at Aberdeen Cytometry Core Facility, and Yang Meng and Dominique Sanglard with help in construction of mutants. We also thank Linghuo Jiang, David Soll, Jes?s Pla, Jan Quinn, Terry Roemer and Joseph Heitman for mutant strains.
N.A.R.G. acknowledges support from the Wellcome Trust [Senior Investigator (101873/Z/13/Z), Collaborative (200208/A/15/Z and 215599/Z/19/Z) and Strategic (097377/Z11/Z) Awards] and from the Medical Research Council Centre for Medical Mycology (MR/N006364/2). This work was also supported by a Marie Curie FP7-PEOPLE-ITN-2008 grant (MB004 RGE0655 ARIADNE) and by a Wellcome Trust project grant (086827). Open access funding provided by University of Exeter. Deposited in PMC for immediate release.
- Antifungal drug
- Cell wall stress