Broad antifungal resistance mediated by RNAi-dependent epimutation in the basal human fungal pathogen Mucor circinelloides.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Mucormycosis-an emergent, deadly fungal infection-is difficult to treat, in part because the causative species demonstrate broad clinical antifungal resistance. However, the mechanisms underlying drug resistance in these infections remain poorly understood. Our previous work demonstrated that one major agent of mucormycosis, Mucor circinelloides, can develop resistance to the antifungal agents FK506 and rapamycin through a novel, transient RNA interference-dependent mechanism known as epimutation. Epimutations silence the drug target gene and are selected by drug exposure; the target gene is re-expressed and sensitivity is restored following passage without drug. This silencing process involves generation of small RNA (sRNA) against the target gene via core RNAi pathway proteins. To further elucidate the role of epimutation in the broad antifungal resistance of Mucor, epimutants were isolated that confer resistance to another antifungal agent, 5-fluoroorotic acid (5-FOA). We identified epimutant strains that exhibit resistance to 5-FOA without mutations in PyrF or PyrG, enzymes which convert 5-FOA into the active toxic form. Using sRNA hybridization as well as sRNA library analysis, we demonstrate that these epimutants harbor sRNA against either pyrF or pyrG, and further show that this sRNA is lost after reversion to drug sensitivity. We conclude that epimutation is a mechanism capable of targeting multiple genes, enabling Mucor to develop resistance to a variety of antifungal agents. Elucidation of the role of RNAi in epimutation affords a fuller understanding of mucormycosis. Furthermore, it improves our understanding of fungal pathogenesis and adaptation to stresses, including the evolution of drug resistance.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Chang, Z; Billmyre, RB; Lee, SC; Heitman, J

Published Date

  • February 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 15 / 2

Start / End Page

  • e1007957 -

PubMed ID

  • 30742617

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC6386414

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1553-7404

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007957


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States