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Clin Microbiol Infect. 2010 May;16(5):501-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-0691.2009.02833.x. Epub 2009 Aug 10.

Linking Pneumocystis jiroveci sulfamethoxazole resistance to the alleles of the DHPS gene using functional complementation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

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Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France.


Curative and prophylactic therapy for Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia relies mainly on cotrimoxazole, an association of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole (SMX). SMX inhibits the folic acid pathway through competition with para-aminobenzoic acid (pABA), one of the two substrates of the dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS), a key enzyme in de novo folic acid synthesis. The most frequent non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in P. jiroveci DHPS are seen at positions 165 and 171, the combination leading to four possible different genetic alleles. A number of reports correlate prophylaxis failure and mutation in the P. jiroveci DHPS but, because of the impossibility of reliably cultivating P. jiroveci, the link between DHPS mutation(s) and SMX susceptibility is not definitively proven. To circumvent this limitation, the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae was used as a model. The introduction of the P. jiroveci DHPS gene, with or without point mutations, directly amplified from a clinical specimen and cloned in a centromeric plasmid into a DHPS-deleted yeast strain, allowed a fully effective complementation. However, in the presence of SMX at concentrations >250 mg/L, yeasts complemented with the double mutated allele showed a lower susceptibility compared with strains complemented with either a single mutated allele or wild-type alleles. These results confirm the need for prospective study of pneumocystosis, including systematic determination of the DHPS genotype, to clarify further the impact of mutations on clinical outcome. Additionally, the S. cerevisiae model proves to be useful for the study of still uninvestigated biological properties of P. jiroveci.

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