Topoisomerase I is essential in Cryptococcus neoformans: role In pathobiology and as an antifungal target

Genetics. 1999 May;152(1):167-78. doi: 10.1093/genetics/152.1.167.


Topisomerase I is the target of several toxins and chemotherapy agents, and the enzyme is essential for viability in some organisms, including mice and drosophila. We have cloned the TOP1 gene encoding topoisomerase I from the opportunistic fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. The C. neoformans topoisomerase I contains a fungal insert also found in topoisomerase I from Candida albicans and Saccharomyces cerevisiae that is not present in the mammalian enzyme. We were unable to disrupt the topoisomerase I gene in this haploid organism by homologous recombination in over 8000 transformants analyzed. When a second functional copy of the TOP1 gene was introduced into the genome, the topoisomerase I gene could be readily disrupted by homologous recombination (at 7% efficiency). Thus, topoisomerase I is essential in C. neoformans. This new molecular strategy with C. neoformans may also be useful in identifying essential genes in other pathogenic fungi. To address the physiological and pathobiological functions of the enzyme, the TOP1 gene was fused to the GAL7 gene promoter. The resulting GAL7::TOP1 fusion gene was modestly regulated by carbon source in a serotype A strain of C. neoformans. Modest overexpression of topoisomerase I conferred sensitivity to heat shock, gamma-rays, and camptothecin. In contrast, alterations in topoisomerase I levels had no effect on the toxicity of a novel class of antifungal agents, the dicationic aromatic compounds (DACs), indicating that topoisomerase I is not the target of DACs. In an animal model of cryptococcal meningitis, topoisomerase I regulation was not critically important to established infection, but may impact on the initial stress response to infection. In summary, our studies reveal that topoisomerase I is essential in the human pathogen C. neoformans and represents a novel target for antifungal agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Biotransformation
  • Camptothecin / pharmacology
  • Cell Survival
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Cryptococcus / physiology*
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type I / genetics*
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type I / physiology*
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type I / radiation effects
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Gene Expression
  • Models, Genetic
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plasmids
  • Rabbits
  • Radiation, Ionizing
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Time Factors


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type I
  • Camptothecin

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AF009325