Exploring Cryptococcus neoformans CYP51 and Its Cognate Reductase as a Drug Target

J Fungi (Basel). 2022 Nov 28;8(12):1256. doi: 10.3390/jof8121256.


Cryptococcus remains a leading cause of invasive fungal infections in immunocompromised people. Resistance to azole drugs has imposed a further challenge to the effective treatment of such infections. In this study, the functional expression of full-length hexahistidine-tagged Cryptococcus neoformans CYP51 (CnCYP51-6×His), with or without its cognate hexahistidine-tagged NADPH-cytochrome P450 reductase (CnCPR-6×His), in a Saccharomyces cerevisiae host system has been used to characterise these enzymes. The heterologous expression of CnCYP51-6×His complemented deletion of the host CYP51 and conferred increased susceptibility to both short-tailed and long-tailed azole drugs. In addition, co-expression of CnCPR-6×His decreased susceptibility 2- to 4-fold for short-tailed but not long-tailed azoles. Type 2 binding of azoles to CnCYP51-6×His and assay of NADPH cytochrome P450 reductase activity confirmed that the heterologously expressed CnCYP51 and CnCPR are functional. The constructs have potential as screening tools and use in structure-directed antifungal discovery.

Keywords: CYP51; Cryptococcus neoformans; Saccharomyces cerevisiae expression system; antifungal resistance; cognate reductase; screening tool.