Article: article from journal or magazin.
Distinct Roles of Candida albicans Drug Resistance Transcription Factors TAC1, MRR1, and UPC2 in Virulence.
Publication types: Journal ArticlePublication Status: ppublish
Azoles are widely used in antifungal therapy in medicine. Resistance to azoles can occur in Candida albicans principally by overexpression of multidrug transporter gene CDR1, CDR2, or MDR1 or by overexpression of ERG11, which encodes the azole target. The expression of these genes is controlled by the transcription factors (TFs) TAC1 (involved in the control of CDR1 and CDR2), MRR1 (involved in the control of MDR1), and UPC2 (involved in the control of ERG11). Several gain-of-function (GOF) mutations are present in hyperactive alleles of these TFs, resulting in the overexpression of target genes. While these mutations are beneficial to C. albicans survival in the presence of the antifungal drugs, their effects could potentially alter the fitness and virulence of C. albicans in the absence of the selective drug pressure. In this work, the effect of GOF mutations on C. albicans virulence was addressed in a systemic model of intravenous infection by mouse survival and kidney fungal burden assays. We engineered a set of strains with identical genetic backgrounds in which hyperactive alleles were reintroduced in one or two copies at their genomic loci. The results obtained showed that neither TAC1 nor MRR1 GOF mutations had a significant effect on C. albicans virulence. In contrast, the presence of two hyperactive UPC2 alleles in C. albicans resulted in a significant decrease in virulence, correlating with diminished kidney colonization compared to that by the wild type. In agreement with the effect on virulence, the decreased fitness of an isolate with UPC2 hyperactive alleles was observed in competition experiments with the wild type in vivo but not in vitro. Interestingly, UPC2 hyperactivity delayed filamentation of C. albicans after phagocytosis by murine macrophages, which may at least partially explain the virulence defects. Combining the UPC2 GOF mutation with another hyperactive TF did not compensate for the negative effect of UPC2 on virulence. In conclusion, among the major TFs involved in azole resistance, only UPC2 had a negative impact on virulence and fitness, which may therefore have consequences for the epidemiology of antifungal resistance.
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