Invasive candidiasis (IC) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality despite antifungal treatment. Azoles and echinocandins are used as first-line therapies for IC. However, their efficacy is limited by yeast tolerance and the emergence of acquired resistance. Tolerance is a reversible stage created due to the yeast's capacity to counter antifungal drug exposure, leading to persistent growth. For Candida albicans, multiple stress signaling pathways have been shown to contribute to this adaptation. Among them, the pH-responsive Rim pathway, through its transcription factor Rim101p, was shown to mediate azole and echinocandin tolerance. The Rim pathway is fungus specific, is conserved among the members of the fungal kingdom, and plays a key role in pathogenesis and virulence. The present study aimed at confirming the role of Rim101p and investigating the implication of the other Rim proteins in antifungal tolerance in C. albicans, as well as the mechanisms underlying it. Time-kill curve experiments and colony formation tests showed that genetic inhibition of all the Rim factors enhances echinocandin and azole antifungal activity. Through RNA sequencing analysis of a rim101-/- mutant, a strain constitutively overexpressing RIM101, and control strains, we discovered novel Rim-dependent genes involved in tolerance, including HSP90, encoding a major molecular chaperone, and IPT1, involved in sphingolipid biosynthesis. Rim mutants were also hypersensitive to pharmacological inhibition of Hsp90. Taken together, these data suggest that Rim101 acts upstream of Hsp90 and that targeting the Rim pathway in combination with existing antifungal drugs may represent a promising antifungal strategy to indirectly but specifically target Hsp90 in yeasts.
Keywords: Candida albicans; HSP90; antifungal agents; pH signaling; sphingolipid; stress adaptation; tolerance.
Copyright © 2018 American Society for Microbiology.