Analysis of current antifungal agents and their targets within the Pneumocystis carinii genome

Curr Drug Targets. 2012 Nov;13(12):1575-85. doi: 10.2174/138945012803530107.


Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) remains a leading opportunistic infection in patients with weakened immune systems. The fungus causing the infection belongs to the genus, Pneumocystis, and its members are found in a large variety of mammals. Adaptation to the lung environment of a host with an intact immune system has been a key to its successful survival. Unfortunately, the metabolic strategies used by these fungi to grow and survive in this context are largely unknown. There were considerable impediments to standard approaches for investigation of this unique pathogen, the most problematic being the lack of a long term in vitro culture system. The absence of an ex vivo cultivation method remains today, and many fundamental scientific questions about the basic biology, metabolism, and life cycle of Pneumocystis are unanswered. Recent progress in sequencing of the Pneumocystis carinii genome, a species infecting rats, permitted a more informative search for genes and biological pathways within this pathogen that are known to be targets for existing antifungal agents. In this work, we review the classes of antifungal drugs with respect to their potential applicability to the treatment of PCP. Classes covered in the review are the azoles, polyenes, allylamines, and echinocandins. Factors limiting the use of standard antifungal treatments and the currently available alternatives (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, atovaquone, and pentamidine) are discussed. A summary of genomic sequences within Pneumocystis carinii associated with the corresponding targeted biological pathways is provided. All sequences are available via the Pneumocystis Genome Project at

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antifungal Agents / chemistry
  • Antifungal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Design*
  • Drug Resistance, Fungal / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal / drug effects
  • Genome, Fungal / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure
  • Pneumocystis Infections / diagnosis
  • Pneumocystis Infections / drug therapy*
  • Pneumocystis Infections / microbiology
  • Pneumocystis carinii / drug effects*
  • Pneumocystis carinii / genetics
  • Pneumocystis carinii / growth & development
  • Pneumocystis carinii / metabolism
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antifungal Agents