Targeted gene disruption in Candida albicans wild-type strains: the role of the MDR1 gene in fluconazole resistance of clinical Candida albicans isolates

Authors


Abstract

Resistance of the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans to the antifungal agent fluconazole is often caused by active drug efflux out of the cells. In clinical C. albicans strains, fluconazole resistance frequently correlates with constitutive activation of the MDR1 gene, encoding a membrane transport protein of the major facilitator superfamily that is not expressed detectably in fluconazole-susceptible isolates. However, the molecular changes causing MDR1 activation have not yet been elucidated, and direct proof for MDR1 expression being the cause of drug resistance in clinical C. albicans strains is lacking as a result of difficulties in the genetic manipulation of C. albicans wild-type strains. We have developed a new strategy for sequential gene disruption in C. albicans wild-type strains that is based on the repeated use of a dominant selection marker conferring resistance against mycophenolic acid upon transformants and its subsequent excision from the genome by FLP-mediated, site-specific recombination (MPAR-flipping). This mutagenesis strategy was used to generate homozygous mdr1/mdr1 mutants from two fluconazole-resistant clinical C. albicans isolates in which drug resistance correlated with stable, constitutive MDR1 activation. In both cases, disruption of the MDR1 gene resulted in enhanced susceptibility of the mutants against fluconazole, providing the first direct genetic proof that MDR1 mediates fluconazole resistance in clinical C. albicans strains. The new gene disruption strategy allows the generation of specific knock-out mutations in any C. albicans wild-type strain and therefore opens completely novel approaches for studying this most important human pathogenic fungus at the molecular level.

Ancillary