Targeting methionine synthase in a fungal pathogen causes a metabolic imbalance that impacts cell energetics, growth and virulence

Jennifer Scott, Monica Sueiro Olivares, Benjamin Thornton, Rebecca A Owens, Howbeer Muhamadali, Rachael Fortune-Grant, Darren Thomson, Riba Thomas, Katherine Hollywood, Sean Doyle, Royston Goodacre, Lydia Tabernero, Elaine Bignell, Jorge Amich Elias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is an urgent need to develop novel antifungals to tackle the threat fungal pathogens pose to human health. In this work, we have performed a comprehensive characterisation and validation of the promising target methionine synthase (MetH). We uncover that in Aspergillus fumigatus the absence of this enzymatic activity triggers a metabolic imbalance that causes a reduction in intracellular ATP, which prevents fungal growth even in the presence of methionine. Interestingly, growth can be recovered in the presence of certain metabolites, which evidences that metH is a conditionally essential gene and consequently should be targeted in established infections for a more comprehensive validation. Accordingly, we have validated the use of the tetOFF genetic model in fungal research and improved its performance in vivo to achieve initial validation of targets in models of established infection. We show that repression of metH in growing hyphae halts growth in vitro, which translates into a beneficial effect when targeting established infections using this model in vivo. Finally, a structural-based virtual screening of methionine synthases reveals key differences between the human and fungal structures and unravels features in the fungal enzyme that can guide the design of novel specific inhibitors. Therefore, methionine synthase is a valuable target for the development of new antifungals.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01985-20
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2020


  • Antifungal target
  • Aspergillus fumigatus
  • Doxycycline
  • Established infection
  • Fungal virulence
  • Methionine synthase
  • Primary metabolism
  • Target validation
  • TetOFF

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute of Biotechnology


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