The ER-mitochondria encounter structure contributes to hyphal growth, mitochondrial morphology and virulence of the pathogenic mold Aspergillus fumigatus
Abstract Aspergillus fumigatus is an opportunistic fungal pathogen and the primary causative species of invasive aspergillosis, a systemic disease associated with high mortality rates. Treatment of invasive fungal infection relies on a very limited number of antifungal drug classes. In order to extend the spectrum of antifungal drugs novel target structures have to be identified. The ER-mitochondria encounter structure (ERMES), a recently discovered tether that links mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum, is a potential drug target based on its absence in Metazoa. Very recently, it was shown that ERMES is important for the fitness and immune evasion of the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans . We studied the role of the four ERMES core components Mdm10, Mdm12, Mdm34 and Mmm1 in the pathogenic mold A. fumigatus . By construction and characterizing conditional mutants of all four core components and deletion mutants of mdm10 and mdm12 , we show that each component is of significant importance for growth of the fungal pathogen. While markedness of the individual mutant phenotypes differed slightly, all components are important for maintenance of the mitochondrial morphology and the intra-organellar distribution of nucleoids. Characterization of the Mmm1 ERMES mutant in a Galleria mellonella infection model indicates that ERMES contributes to virulence of A. fumigatus . Our results demonstrate that pharmacologic inhibition of ERMES could exert antifungal activity against this important pathogen.
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