Although chitin is an essential component of the fungal cell wall (CW), its biosynthesis and role in virulence is poorly understood. In Aspergillus fumigatus, there are eight chitin synthase (CHS) genes belonging to two families CHSA-C, CHSG in family 1 and CHSF, CHSD, CSMA, CSMB in family 2). To understand the function of these CHS genes, their single and multiple deletions were performed using β-rec/six system to be able to delete all genes within each family (up to a quadruple ΔchsA/C/B/G mutant in family 1 and a quadruple ΔcsmA/csmB/F/D mutant in family 2). Radial growth, conidiation, mycelial/conidial morphology, CW polysaccharide content, Chs-activity, susceptibility to antifungal molecules and pathogenicity in experimental animal aspergillosis were analysed for all the mutants. Among the family 1 CHS, ΔchsA, ΔchsB and ΔchsC mutants showed limited impact on chitin synthesis. In contrast, there was reduced conidiation, altered mycelial morphotype and reduced growth and Chs-activity in the ΔchsG and ΔchsA/C/B/G mutants. In spite of this altered phenotype, these two mutants were as virulent as the parental strain in the experimental aspergillosis models. Among family 2 CHS, phenotypic defects mainly resulted from the CSMA deletion. Despite significant morphological mycelial and conidial growth phenotypes in the quadruple ΔcsmA/csmB/F/D mutant, the chitin content was poorly affected by gene deletions in this family. However, the entire mycelial cell wall structure was disorganized in the family 2 mutants that may be related to the reduced pathogenicity of the quadruple ΔcsmA/csmB/F/D mutant strain compared to the parental strain, in vivo. Deletion of the genes encompassing the two families (ΔcsmA/csmB/F/G) showed that in spite of being originated from an ancient divergence of fungi, these two families work cooperatively to synthesize chitin in A. fumigatus and demonstrate the essentiality of chitin biosynthesis for vegetative growth, resistance to antifungal drugs, and virulence of this filamentous fungus.
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.