C. albicans is an opportunistic human fungal pathogen that causes mucosal, cutaneous, and systemic infections including oropharyngeal candidiasis (OPC), the most frequent opportunistic infection among patients suffering from AIDS. Fluconazole and other azole antifungal agents have proven effective in the management of OPC;however, with increased use of these agents, treatment failures have occurred that have been associated with the emergence of azole-resistant strains of C. albicans. While the use of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has reduced the frequency of OPC among AIDS patients in the United States, limited access to such therapy in underdeveloped countries, poor compliance, and toxicity associated with HAART will likely contribute to an increase in this problem among AIDS patients world-wide. While several mechanisms of azole resistance have been described, these are not sufficient to explain this trait in many clinical isolates. We have discovered MRR1 which encodes the transcriptional regulator of the MDR1 efflux pump gene and is a central regulator or azole antifungal resistance in C. albicans. Gain-of-function mutations in the MRR1 gene result in the constitutive activation of this transcription factor, up-regulation of MDR1, and increased fluconazole resistance.
The specific aims outlined in the current proposal represent the next steps towards achieving our overall goal of understanding how Mrr1p influences azole resistance in C. albicans. We will identify direct and indirect target genes of Mrr1p, elucidate their cis-acting elements, and determine which of these genes influence Mrr1p-mediated azole resistance. We will also identify accessory proteins that associate with Mrr1p and determine if these accessory proteins influence Mrr1p-mediated azole resistance. These studies will further elucidate the molecular basis for azole antifungal resistance and will ultimately point to novel strategies for predicting treatment failure, overcoming azole resistance, and improving antifungal pharmacotherapy in this patient population.

Public Health Relevance

Candida albicans is an important human fungal pathogen that can develop resistance to the azoles, the most commonly prescribed class of antifungal drugs. This application proposes to understand how this pathogen develops resistance to such antifungal drugs with an ultimate goal of better strategies for treatment of these infections and more rapidly detecting resistance.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Research Project (R01)
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Drug Discovery and Mechanisms of Antimicrobial Resistance Study Section (DDR)
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Duncan, Rory A
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University of Tennessee Health Science Center
Other Health Professions
Schools of Pharmacy
United States
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