Campafungins: Inhibitors of Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans Hyphal Growth.


Campafungin A is a polyketide that was recognized in the Candida albicans fitness test due to its antiproliferative and antihyphal activity. Its mode of action was hypothesized to involve inhibition of a cAMP-dependent PKA pathway. The originally proposed structure appeared to require a polyketide assembled in a somewhat unusual fashion. However, structural characterization data were never formally published. This background stimulated a reinvestigation in which campafungin A and three closely related minor constituents were purified from fermentations of a strain of the ascomycete fungus Plenodomus enteroleucus. Labeling studies, along with extensive NMR analysis, enabled assignment of a revised structure consistent with conventional polyketide synthetic machinery. The structure elucidation of campafungin A and new analogues encountered in this study, designated here as campafungins B, C, and D, is presented, along with a proposed biosynthetic route. The antimicrobial spectrum was expanded to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Candida tropicalis, Candida glabrata, Cryptococcus neoformans, Aspergillus fumigatus, and Schizosaccharomyces pombe, with MICs ranging as low as 4-8 μg mL-1 in C. neoformans. Mode-of-action studies employing libraries of C. neoformans mutants indicated that multiple pathways were affected, but mutants in PKA/cAMP pathways were unaffected, indicating that the mode of action was distinct from that observed in C. albicans.






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Publication Info

Perlatti, Bruno, Guy Harris, Connie B Nichols, Dulamini I Ekanayake, J Andrew Alspaugh, James B Gloer and Gerald F Bills (2020). Campafungins: Inhibitors of Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans Hyphal Growth. Journal of natural products, 83(9). pp. 2718–2726. 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.0c00641 Retrieved from

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James Andrew Alspaugh

Professor of Medicine

The focus of my research is to understand the ways in which microorganisms sense and respond to changes in their environment. As microbial pathogens enter the infected host, dramatic genetic and phenotypic events occur that allow these organisms to survive in this harsh environment. We study the model fungal organism Cryptococcus neoformans to define signal transduction pathways associated with systemic fungal diseases. This pathogenic fungus causes lethal infections of the central nervous system in patients with AIDS and other immunological disorders. In addition to being an important pathogen, C. neoformans displays well-characterized and inducible virulence determinants. It is an outstanding system for dissecting the signaling pathways associated with pathogenicity.

The main techniques used in the lab are those of molecular genetics. We are able to readily mutate C. neoformans genes by homologous recombination. Mutant strains with disruptions in targeted genes are then evaluated in vitro for various phenotypes including altered expression of polysaccharide capsule and melanin. The effects of gene disruption on pathogenicity are also evaluated in animal models of cryptococcal disease. Using these techniques, we have identified a novel G-alpha protein/cAMP-dependent signaling pathway associated with mating and pathogenicity.

This research is complemented by the other investigators in the Duke University Mycology Research Unit. The members of this research community are pursuing studies in fungal pathogenesis, identifying novel antifungal drug targets, and studying the ecology of several medically important fungi.

Keywords: Microbial Pathogenesis
Cryptococcus neoformans
Signal transduction
Fungal mating
G proteins

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