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Concept: Ascomycota


Candida albicans is an opportunistic and polymorphic fungal pathogen that causes mucosal, disseminated and invasive infections in humans. Transition from the yeast form to the hyphal form is one of the key virulence factors in C. albicans contributing to macrophage evasion, tissue invasion and biofilm formation. Nontoxic small molecules that inhibit C. albicans yeast-to-hypha conversion and hyphal growth could represent a valuable source for understanding pathogenic fungal morphogenesis, identifying drug targets and serving as templates for the development of novel antifungal agents. Here, we have identified the triterpenoid saponin family of gymnemic acids (GAs) as inhibitor of C. albicans morphogenesis. GAs were isolated and purified from Gymnema sylvestre leaves, the Ayurvedic traditional medicinal plant used to treat diabetes. Purified GAs had no effect on the growth and viability of C. albicans yeast cells but inhibited its yeast-to-hypha conversion under several hypha-inducing conditions, including the presence of serum. Moreover, GAs promoted the conversion of C. albicans hyphae into yeast cells under hypha inducing conditions. They also inhibited conidial germination and hyphal growth of Aspergillus sp. Finally, GAs inhibited the formation of invasive hyphae from C. albicans-infected Caenorhabditis elegans worms and rescued them from killing by C. albicans. Hence, GAs could be useful for various antifungal applications due to their traditional use in herbal medicine.

Concepts: Bacteria, Microbiology, Fungus, Hypha, Yeast, Candida albicans, Ascomycota, Gymnema sylvestre


Over the last decade, the genome-scale metabolic models have been playing increasingly important roles in elucidating metabolic characteristics of biological systems for a wide range of applications including, but not limited to, system-wide identification of drug targets and production of high value biochemical compounds. However, these genome-scale metabolic models must be able to first predict known in vivo phenotypes before it is applied towards these applications with high confidence. One benchmark for measuring the in silico capability in predicting in vivo phenotypes is the use of single-gene mutant libraries to measure the accuracy of knockout simulations in predicting mutant growth phenotypes.

Concepts: Scientific method, Metabolism, Yeast, Model organism, Ascomycota, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Yeasts, Schizosaccharomyces


Arsenic toxicity has been studied for a long time due to its effects in humans. Although epidemiological studies have demonstrated multiple effects in human physiology, there are many open questions about the cellular targets and the mechanisms of response to arsenic. Using the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe as model system, we have been able to demonstrate a strong activation of the MAPK Spc1/Sty1 in response to arsenate. This activation is dependent on Wis1 activation and Pyp2 phosphatase inactivation. Using arsenic speciation analysis we have also demonstrated the previously unknown capacity of S. pombe cells to reduce As (V) to As (III). Genetic analysis of several fission yeast mutants point towards the cell cycle phosphatase Cdc25 as a possible candidate to carry out this arsenate reductase activity. We propose that arsenate reduction and intracellular accumulation of arsenite are the key mechanisms of arsenate tolerance in fission yeast.

Concepts: Yeast, Model organism, Ascomycota, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Yeasts, Model organisms, Schizosaccharomyces, Paul Nurse


Drug-induced haploinsufficiency (DIH) in yeast has been considered a valuable tool for drug target identification. A plant metabolite, plumbagin, has potent anticancer activity via reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation. However, the detailed molecular targets of plumbagin for ROS generation are not understood. Here, using DIH and heterozygous deletion mutants of the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, we identified 1, 4-phopshatidylinositol 5-kinase (PI5K) its3 as a new molecular target of plumbagin for ROS generation. Plumbagin showed potent anti-proliferative activity (GI(50); 10 µM) and induced cell elongation and septum formation in wild-type S. pombe. Furthermore, plumbagin dramatically increased the intracellular ROS level, and pretreatment with the ROS scavenger, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), protected against growth inhibition by plumbagin, suggesting that ROS play a crucial role in the anti-proliferative activity in S. pombe. Interestingly, significant DIH was observed in an its3-deleted heterozygous mutant, in which ROS generation by plumbagin was higher than that in wild-type cells, implying that its3 contributes to ROS generation by plumbagin in this yeast. In MCF7 human breast cancer cells, plumbagin significantly decreased the level of a human ortholog, 1, 4-phopshatidylinositol 5-kinase (PI5K)-1B, of yeast its3, and knockdown of PI5K-1B using siPI5K-1B increased the ROS level and decreased cell viability. Taken together, these results clearly show that PI5K-1B plays a crucial role in ROS generation as a new molecular target of plumbagin. Moreover, drug target screening using DIH in S. pombe deletion mutants is a valuable tool for identifying molecular targets of anticancer agents.

Concepts: Cancer, Breast cancer, Chemotherapy, Yeast, Model organism, Ascomycota, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Schizosaccharomyces


The genome of P. marneffei, the most important thermal dimorphic fungus causing respiratory, skin and systemic mycosis in China and Southeast Asia, possesses 23 polyketide synthase (PKS) genes and 2 polyketide synthase nonribosomal peptide synthase hybrid (PKS-NRPS) genes, which is of high diversity compared to other thermal dimorphic pathogenic fungi. We hypothesized that the yellow pigment in the mold form of P. marneffei could also be synthesized by one or more PKS genes.

Concepts: Bacteria, Amino acid, Southeast Asia, Fungus, Ascomycota, Penicillium, Nonribosomal peptide, Polyketide synthase


In the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, the transcriptional-regulatory network that governs flocculation remains poorly understood. Here, we systematically screened an array of transcription factor deletion and overexpression strains for flocculation and performed microarray expression profiling and ChIP-chip analysis to identify the flocculin target genes. We identified five transcription factors that displayed novel roles in the activation or inhibition of flocculation (Rfl1, Adn2, Adn3, Sre2, and Yox1), in addition to the previously-known Mbx2, Cbf11, and Cbf12 regulators. Overexpression of mbx2(+) and deletion of rfl1(+) resulted in strong flocculation and transcriptional upregulation of gsf2(+)/pfl1(+) and several other putative flocculin genes (pfl2(+)-pfl9(+)). Overexpression of the pfl(+) genes singly was sufficient to trigger flocculation, and enhanced flocculation was observed in several combinations of double pfl(+) overexpression. Among the pfl1(+) genes, only loss of gsf2(+) abrogated the flocculent phenotype of all the transcription factor mutants and prevented flocculation when cells were grown in inducing medium containing glycerol and ethanol as the carbon source, thereby indicating that Gsf2 is the dominant flocculin. In contrast, the mild flocculation of adn2(+) or adn3(+) overexpression was likely mediated by the transcriptional activation of cell wall-remodeling genes including gas2(+), psu1(+), and SPAC4H3.03c. We also discovered that Mbx2 and Cbf12 displayed transcriptional autoregulation, and Rfl1 repressed gsf2(+) expression in an inhibitory feed-forward loop involving mbx2(+). These results reveal that flocculation in S. pombe is regulated by a complex network of multiple transcription factors and target genes encoding flocculins and cell wall-remodeling enzymes. Moreover, comparisons between the flocculation transcriptional-regulatory networks of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and S. pombe indicate substantial rewiring of transcription factors and cis-regulatory sequences.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Gene expression, Yeast, Model organism, Ascomycota, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Yeasts


BACKGROUND: Inorganic phosphate is an essential nutrient required by organisms for growth. During phosphate starvation, Saccharomyces cerevisiae activates the phosphate signal transduction (PHO) pathway, leading to expression of the secreted acid phosphatase, PHO5. The fission yeast, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, regulates expression of the ScPHO5 homolog (pho1+) via a non-orthologous PHO pathway involving genetically identified positive (pho7+) and negative (csk1+) regulators. The genes induced by phosphate limitation and the molecular mechanism by which pho7+ and csk1+ function are unknown. Here we use a combination of molecular biology, expression microarrays, and chromatin immunoprecipitation coupled with high-throughput sequencing (ChIP-Seq) to characterize the role of pho7+ and csk1+ in the PHO response. RESULTS: We define the set of genes that comprise the initial response to phosphate starvation in S. pombe. We identify a conserved PHO response that contains the ScPHO5 (pho1+), ScPHO84 (SPBC8E4.01c), and ScGIT1 (SPBC1271.09) orthologs. We identify members of the Pho7 regulon and characterize Pho7 binding in response to phosphate-limitation and Csk1 activity. We demonstrate that activation of pho1+ requires Pho7 binding to a UAS in the pho1+ promoter and that Csk1 repression does not regulate Pho7 enrichment. Further, we find that Pho7-dependent activation is not limited to phosphate-starvation, as additional environmental stress response pathways require pho7+ for maximal induction. CONCLUSIONS: We provide a global analysis of the transcriptional response to phosphate limitation in S. pombe. Our results elucidate the conserved core regulon induced in response to phosphate starvation in this ascomycete distantly related to S. cerevisiae and provide a better understanding of flexibility in environmental stress response networks.

Concepts: DNA, Molecular biology, Yeast, Model organism, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Ascomycota, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Yeasts


Regulation of polarised cell growth is essential for many cellular processes including spatial coordination of cell morphology changes during the division cycle. We present a mathematical model of the core mechanism responsible for the regulation of polarised growth dynamics during the fission yeast cell cycle. The model is based on the competition of growth zones localised at the cell tips for a common substrate distributed uniformly in the cytosol. We analyse the bifurcations in this model as the cell length increases, and show that the growth activation dynamics provides an explanation for the new-end take-off (NETO) as a saddle-node bifurcation at which the cell sharply switches from monopolar to bipolar growth. We study the parameter sensitivity of the bifurcation diagram and relate qualitative changes of the growth pattern, e.g. delayed or absent NETO, to previously observed mutant phenotypes. We investigate the effects of imperfect asymmetric cell division, and show that this leads to distinct growth patterns that provide experimentally testable predictions for validating the presented competitive growth zone activation model. Finally we discuss extension of the model for describing mutant cells with more than two growth zones.

Concepts: Cell nucleus, Cell division, Yeast, Model organism, Cell cycle, Ascomycota, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Yeasts


Fungal phospholipases are members of the fungal/bacterial group XIV secreted phospholipases A2 (sPLA2). TbSP1, the sPLA2 primarily addressed in this study, is upregulated by nutrient deprivation and is preferentially expressed in the symbiotic stage of the ectomycorrhizal fungus Tuber borchii. A peculiar feature of this phospholipase and of its ortholog from the black truffle T. melanosporum is the presence of a 54 amino acid sequence of unknown functional significance, interposed between the signal peptide and the start of the conserved catalytic core of the enzyme. X-ray diffraction analysis of a recombinant TbSP1 form corresponding to the secreted protein previously identified in T. borchii mycelia, revealed a structure comprising the five α-helices that form the phospholipase catalytic module, but lacking the N-terminal 54 amino acids. This finding led to a series of functional studies that showed that TbSP1, as well as its T. melanosporum ortholog, is a self-processing pro-phospholipase A2, whose phospholipase activity increases up to 80-fold following autoproteolytic removal of the N-terminal peptide. Proteolytic cleavage occurs within a serine-rich, intrinsically flexible region of TbSP1, does not involve the phospholipase active site, and proceeds via an intermolecular mechanism. Autoproteolytic activation, which also takes place at the surface of nutrient-starved, sPLA2 overexpressing hyphae, may strengthen and further control the effects of phospholipase upregulation in response to nutrient deprivation, also in the context of symbiosis establishment and mycorrhiza formation.

Concepts: Protein, Protein structure, Amino acid, Plant, Fungus, Mycorrhiza, Mycelium, Ascomycota


BACKGROUND: Replication and transcription, the two key functions of DNA, require unwinding of the DNA double helix. It has been shown that replication origins in the budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae contain an easily unwound stretch of DNA. We have used a recently developed method for determining the locations and degrees of stress-induced duplex destabilization (SIDD) for all the reported replication origins in the genome of the fission yeast, Schizosaccharomyces pombe. RESULTS: We have found that the origins are more susceptible to SIDD as compared to the non-origin intergenic regions (NOIRs) and genes. SIDD analysis of many known origins in other eukaryotes suggests that SIDD is a common property of replication origins. Interestingly, the previously shown deletion-dependent changes in the activities of the origins of the ura4 origin region on chromosome 3 are paralleled by changes in SIDD properties, suggesting SIDD’s role in origin activity. SIDD profiling following in silico deletions of some origins suggests that many of the closely spaced S. pombe origins could be clusters of two or three weak origins, similar to the ura4 origin region. CONCLUSION: SIDD appears to be a highly conserved, functionally important property of replication origins in S. pombe and other organisms. The distinctly low SIDD scores of origins and the long range effects of genetic alterations on SIDD properties provide a unique predictive potential to the SIDD analysis. This could be used in exploring different aspects of structural and functional organization of origins including interactions between closely spaced origins.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genome, Yeast, Model organism, Ascomycota, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Yeasts