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Med Mycol. 2005 May;43 Suppl 1:S299-305.

Characterization of Aspergillus fumigatus mutants with reduced susceptibility to caspofungin.

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Public Health Research Institute at the International Center for Public Health, 225 Warren Street, Newark, NJ 07103, USA.


Caspofungin acetate (CAS) is a member of a new class of clinically-approved echinocandin drugs to treat invasive aspergillosis. CAS inhibits the activity of beta-1,3-D-glucan synthase (GS), thus damaging the fungal cell wall. Although no clinical resistance of Aspergillus to CAS has been reported as yet, the development of in vitro reduced susceptibility is presumed to be inevitable. By contrast, echinocandin resistance in laboratory strains of Candida albicans and Saccharomyces cerevisiae has been well documented. To study the potential for clinical resistance in Aspergillus, two classes of Aspergillus fumigatus mutant strains were isolated that exhibited reduced susceptibility to CAS. In the first class, a site-directed mutation within the target gene (AfFKS1, encoding the putative catalytic subunit of GS) was introduced and shown to confer low-level (16-fold) reduced susceptibility. A second class of spontaneous mutants were sensitive to low levels of drug but displayed nearly normal growth above 0.5 microg/ml, suggesting induction of an unknown resistance mechanism. At higher levels of drug (> or = 16 microg/ml), the mutants displayed partially restored sensitivity. Preliminary studies indicate that neither target site mutations, nor changes in target gene expression are present in these strains, as has been documented for several yeasts. Instead, preliminary results indicate that the molecular mechanism(s) underlying reduced susceptibility of CAS in the A. fumigatus strains is novel, possibly due to remodeling of the cell wall components.

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