CYP51 Paralogue Structure Is Associated with Intrinsic Azole Resistance in Fungi

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Azoles are the most commonly used clinical antifungal therapy and also play an important role in control of plant pathogens. Intrinsic resistance to the azole class of fungicides, which target lanosterol demethylase (CYP51), is observed in many fungal species; however, the mechanisms underpinning this phenomenon are unknown. In this study, 5 azole-resistant Penicillium isolates from patients attending the UK National Aspergillosis Centre that could not be morphologically identified to species level were analyzed by genome sequencing. The genomes and CYP51 paralogue structure from these isolates were compared with those of 46 representative fungal isolates to identify to species level and examine possible mechanisms of drug resistance. Analysis of CYP51 paralogues showed that azole-resistant isolates from this study (n = 2) and from public databases (n = 6) contained a new CYP51 paralogue, CYP51D, which was associated with azole resistance in 6/8 cases and never occurred in azole-sensitive species (46/46 tested). Furthermore, one isolate from this study and an azole-resistant Aspergillus fumigatiaffinis isolate were shown to encode a CYP51A paralogue, CYP51A2. Introduction of CYP51A2 to the closely related but azole-sensitive Aspergillus fumigatus resulted in azole resistance. The identification of novel CYP51A and CYP51D paralogues in resistant fungi and the observation that resistance to azoles can be conferred by introducing a CYP51A paralogue from a resistant species into an azole-sensitive species are a potentially important new azole resistance mechanism.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 28 Sept 2021


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