Aspartate semialdehyde dehydrogenase inhibition suppresses the growth of the pathogenic fungus Candida albicans

Drug Dev Res. 2020 Sep;81(6):736-744. doi: 10.1002/ddr.21682. Epub 2020 May 8.


Potent inhibitors of an essential microbial enzyme have been shown to be effective growth inhibitors of Candida albicans, a pathogenic fungus. C. albicans is the main cause of oropharyngeal candidiasis, and also causes invasive fungal infections, including systemic sepsis, leading to serious complications in immunocompromised patients. As the rates of drug-resistant fungal infections continue to rise novel antifungal treatments are desperately needed. The enzyme aspartate semialdehyde dehydrogenase (ASADH) is critical for the functioning of the aspartate biosynthetic pathway in microbes and plants. Because the aspartate pathway is absent in humans, ASADH has the potential to be a promising new target for antifungal research. Deleting the asd gene encoding for ASADH significantly decreases the survival of C. albicans, establishing this enzyme as essential for this organism. Previously developed ASADH inhibitors were tested against several strains of C. albicans to measure their possible therapeutic impact. The more potent inhibitors show a good correlation between enzyme inhibitor potency and fungal growth inhibition. Growth curves generated by incubating different C. albicans strains with varying enzyme inhibitor levels show significant slowing of fungal growth by these inhibitors against each of these strains, similar to the effect observed with a clinical antifungal drug. The most effective inhibitors also demonstrated relatively low cytotoxicity against a human epithelial cell line. Taken together, these results establish that the ASADH enzyme is a promising new target for further development as a novel antifungal treatment against C. albicans and related fungal species.

Keywords: Candida albicans; antifungal compounds; aspartate semialdehyde dehydrogenase; enzyme inhibitors; fungal growth inhibitors; pathogenic fungus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology*
  • Aspartate-Semialdehyde Dehydrogenase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Aspartate-Semialdehyde Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Benzoquinones / pharmacology*
  • Candida albicans / drug effects*
  • Candida albicans / genetics
  • Candida albicans / growth & development
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Gene Deletion
  • Humans
  • Mouth Mucosa / cytology
  • Naphthoquinones / pharmacology*


  • Antifungal Agents
  • Benzoquinones
  • Naphthoquinones
  • Aspartate-Semialdehyde Dehydrogenase