Functional analysis of the Aspergillus fumigatus kinome reveals a DYRK kinase involved in septal plugging is a novel antifungal drug target

Norman van Rhijn, Can Zhao, Narjes Al-Furaji, Isabelle Storer, Clara Valero, Sara Gago, Harry Chown, Clara Baldin, Rachael Fortune-Grant, Hajer Bin Shuraym, Lia Ivanova, Olaf Kniemeyer, Thomas Krüger, Elaine Bignell, Gustavo Goldman, Jorge Amich, Daniela Delneri, Paul Bowyer, Axel Brakhage, Hubertus HaasMichael Bromley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

More than 10 million people suffer from lung diseases caused by the pathogenic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus. The azole class of antifungals represent first line therapeutics for most of these infections however resistance is rising. Identification of novel antifungal targets that, when inhibited, synergise with the azoles will aid the development of agents that can improve therapeutic outcomes and supress the emergence of resistance. As part of the A. fumigatus genome-wide knockout program (COFUN), we have completed the generation of a library that consists of 120 genetically barcoded null mutants in genes that encode the protein kinase cohort of A. fumigatus. We have employed a competitive fitness profiling approach (Bar-Seq), to identify targets which when deleted result in hypersensitivity to the azoles and fitness defects in a murine host. The most promising candidate from our screen is a previously uncharacterised DYRK kinase orthologous to Yak1 of Candida albicans, a TOR signalling pathway kinase involved in modulation of stress responsive transcriptional regulators. Here we show that the orthologue YakA has been repurposed in A. fumigatus to regulate blocking of the septal pore upon exposure to stress via phosphorylation of the Woronin body tethering protein Lah. Loss of YakA function reduces the ability of A. fumigatus to penetrate solid media and impacts growth in murine lung tissue. We also show that 1-ethoxycarbonyl-beta-carboline (1-ECBC), a compound previously shown to inhibit Yak1 in C. albicans prevents stress mediated septal spore blocking and synergises with the azoles to inhibit A. fumigatus growth.

Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch Square
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2023

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