The Hsp90 co-chaperone Sgt1 governs Candida albicans morphogenesis and drug resistance.


The molecular chaperone Hsp90 orchestrates regulatory circuitry governing fungal morphogenesis, biofilm development, drug resistance, and virulence. Hsp90 functions in concert with co-chaperones to regulate stability and activation of client proteins, many of which are signal transducers. Here, we characterize the first Hsp90 co-chaperone in the leading human fungal pathogen, Candida albicans. We demonstrate that Sgt1 physically interacts with Hsp90, and that it governs C. albicans morphogenesis and drug resistance. Genetic depletion of Sgt1 phenocopies depletion of Hsp90, inducing yeast to filament morphogenesis and invasive growth. Sgt1 governs these traits by bridging two morphogenetic regulators: Hsp90 and the adenylyl cyclase of the cAMP-PKA signaling cascade, Cyr1. Sgt1 physically interacts with Cyr1, and depletion of either Sgt1 or Hsp90 activates cAMP-PKA signaling, revealing the elusive link between Hsp90 and the PKA signaling cascade. Sgt1 also mediates tolerance and resistance to the two most widely deployed classes of antifungal drugs, azoles and echinocandins. Depletion of Sgt1 abrogates basal tolerance and acquired resistance to azoles, which target the cell membrane. Depletion of Sgt1 also abrogates tolerance and resistance to echinocandins, which target the cell wall, and renders echinocandins fungicidal. Though Sgt1 and Hsp90 have a conserved impact on drug resistance, the underlying mechanisms are distinct. Depletion of Hsp90 destabilizes the client protein calcineurin, thereby blocking crucial responses to drug-induced stress; in contrast, depletion of Sgt1 does not destabilize calcineurin, but blocks calcineurin activation in response to drug-induced stress. Sgt1 influences not only morphogenesis and drug resistance, but also virulence, as genetic depletion of C. albicans Sgt1 leads to reduced kidney fungal burden in a murine model of systemic infection. Thus, our characterization of the first Hsp90 co-chaperone in a fungal pathogen establishes C. albicans Sgt1 as a global regulator of morphogenesis and drug resistance, providing a new target for treatment of life-threatening fungal infections.





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Publication Info

Shapiro, Rebecca S, Aimee K Zaas, Marisol Betancourt-Quiroz, John R Perfect and Leah E Cowen (2012). The Hsp90 co-chaperone Sgt1 governs Candida albicans morphogenesis and drug resistance. PLoS One, 7(9). p. e44734. 10.1371/journal.pone.0044734 Retrieved from

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Aimee Kirsch Zaas

Professor of Medicine

Medical education
Genomic applications for diagnosis of infectious diseases
Genomic applications for prediction of infectious diseases


John Robert Perfect

James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Medicine

Research in my laboratory focuses around several aspects of medical mycology. We are investigating antifungal agents (new and old) in animal models of candida and cryptococcal infections. We have examined clinical correlation of in vitro antifungal susceptibility testing and with in vivo outcome. Our basic science project examines the molecular pathogenesis of cryptococcal infections. We have developed a molecular foundation for C. neoformans, including transformation systems, gene disruptions, differential gene expression screens, and cloning pathogenesis genes. The goal of this work is to use C. neoformans as a model yeast system to identify molecular targets for antifungal drug development. There are a series of clinical trials in fungal infections which are being coordinated through this laboratory and my work also includes a series of antibiotic trials in various aspects of infections. Finally, we have now been awarded a NIH sponsored Mycology Unit for 5 years with 6 senior investigators which is focused on C. neoformans as a pathogenic model system, but will include multiple areas of medical mycology from diagnosis to treatment.

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