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Infect Immun. 2013 Feb;81(2):411-20. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00833-12. Epub 2012 Nov 26.

The 3-hydroxy-methylglutaryl coenzyme A lyase HCL1 is required for macrophage colonization by human fungal pathogen Histoplasma capsulatum.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA.


Histoplasma capsulatum is a fungal respiratory pathogen that survives and replicates within the phagolysosome of macrophages. The molecular factors it utilizes to subvert macrophage antimicrobial defenses are largely unknown. Although the ability of H. capsulatum to prevent acidification of the macrophage phagolysosome is thought to be critical for intracellular survival, this hypothesis has not been tested since H. capsulatum mutants that experience decreased phagosomal pH have not been identified. In a screen to identify H. capsulatum genes required for lysis of bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs), we identified an insertion mutation disrupting the H. capsulatum homolog of 3-hydroxy-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG CoA) lyase (HCL1). In addition to its inability to lyse macrophages, the hcl1 mutant had a severe growth defect in BMDMs, indicating that HMG CoA lyase gene function is critical for macrophage colonization. In other organisms, HMG CoA lyase catalyzes the last step in the leucine catabolism pathway. In addition, both fungi and humans deficient in HMG CoA lyase accumulate acidic intermediates as a consequence of their inability to catabolize leucine. Consistent with observations in other organisms, the H. capsulatum hcl1 mutant was unable to grow on leucine as the major carbon source, caused acidification of its growth medium in vitro, and resided in an acidified vacuole within macrophages. Mice infected with the hcl1 mutant took significantly longer to succumb to infection than mice infected with the wild-type strain. Taken together, these data indicate the importance of Hcl1 function in H. capsulatum replication in the harsh growth environment of the macrophage phagosome.

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