Miltefosine (MI) is a novel, potential antifungal agent with activity against some yeast and filamentous fungal pathogens. We previously demonstrated in the model yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, that MI causes disruption of mitochondrial membrane potential and apoptosis-like cell death via interaction with the Cox9p sub-unit of cytochrome c oxidase (COX). To identify additional mechanisms of antifungal action, MI resistance was induced in S. cerevisiae by exposure to the mutagen, ethyl methanesulfonate, and gene mutation(s) responsible for resistance were investigated. An MI-resistant haploid strain (H-C101) was created. Resistance was retained in the diploid strain (D-C101) following mating, confirming dominant inheritance. Phenotypic assessment of individual D-C101 tetrads revealed that only one mutant gene contributed to the MI-resistance phenotype. To identify this gene, the genome of H-C101 was sequenced and 17 mutated genes, including metacaspase-encoding MCA1, were identified. The MCA1 mutation resulted in substitution of asparagine (N) with aspartic acid (D) at position 164 (MCA1N164D). MI resistance was found to be primarily due to MCA1N164D, as single-copy episomal expression of MCA1N164D, but not two other mutated genes (FAS1T1417I and BCK2T104A), resulted in MI resistance in the wild-type strain. Furthermore, an MCA1 deletion mutant (mca1?) was MI-resistant. MI treatment led to accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in MI-resistant (MCA1N164D-expressing and mca1?) strains and MI-susceptible (MCA1-expressing) strains, but failed to activate Mca1 in the MI-resistant strains, demonstrating that ROS accumulation does not contribute to the fungicidal effect of MI. In conclusion, functional disruption of Mca1, leads to MI resistance and inability to mediate MI-induced apoptotic effects. Mca1-mediated apoptosis is therefore a major mechanism of MI-induced antifungal action.
Biswas, C., Zuo, X., Chen, S. C. A., Schibeci, S. D., Forwood, J., Jolliffe, K. A., Sorrell, T. C., & Djordevic, J. T. (2014). Functional disruption of yeast metacaspase, Mca1, leads to miltefosine resistance and inability to mediate miltefosine-induced apoptotic effects. Fungal Genetics and Biology, 67, 71-81. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fgb.2014.04.003