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Mol Microbiol. 2012 Apr;84(1):130-46. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2012.08016.x. Epub 2012 Mar 15.

Involvement of PDK1, PKC and TOR signalling pathways in basal fluconazole tolerance in Cryptococcus neoformans.

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Laboratory of Clinical Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Laboratory of Bioorganic Chemistry, National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.


This study shows the importance of PDK1, TOR and PKC signalling pathways to the basal tolerance of Cryptococcus neoformans towards fluconazole, the widely used drug for treatment of cryptococcosis. Mutations in genes integral to these pathway resulted in hypersensitivity to the drug. Upon fluconazole treatment, Mpk1, the downstream target of PKC was phosphorylated and its phosphorylation required Pdk1. We show genetically that the PDK1 and TOR phosphorylation sites in Ypk1 as well as the kinase activity of Ypk1 are required for the fluconazole basal tolerance. The involvement of these pathways in fluconazole basal tolerance was associated with sphingolipid homeostasis. Deletion of PDK1, SIN1 or YPK1 but not MPK1 affected cell viability in the presence of sphingolipid biosynthesis inhibitors. Concurrently, pdk1Δ, sin1Δ, ypk1Δ and mpk1Δ exhibited altered sphingolipid content and elevated fluconazole accumulation compared with the wild type. The fluconazole hypersensitivity phenotype of these mutants, therefore, appears to be the result of malfunction of the influx/efflux systems due to modifications of membrane sphingolipid content. Interestingly, the reduced virulence of these strains in mice suggests that the cryptococcal PDK1, PKC, and likely the TOR pathways play an important role in managing stress exerted either by fluconazole or by the host environment.

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