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Study identifies mechanism underlying multidrug resistance in fungi
Date:4/2/2008

A team of researchers led by Anders Nr, PhD, of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center has identified a mechanism controlling multidrug resistance in fungi. This discovery could help advance treatments for opportunistic fungal infections that frequently plague individuals with compromised immunity, such as patients receiving chemotherapy, transplant recipients treated with immunosuppressive drugs, and AIDS patients. The findings appear in the April 3 issue of Nature.

Almost 10 percent of bloodstream infections are caused by pathogenic fungi, such as the Candida species; and the mortality of such infections is approaching 40 percent. Just as many bacterial strains have become resistant to important antibiotics, resistance to common antifungal drugs is an increasing phenomenon in pathogenic fungi. To better understand the molecular pathways controlling multidrug resistance in fungi, the research team first investigated drug resistance in bakers yeast, a common genetic model for observing biological processes.

Using detailed genetic, biochemical, and molecular approaches, the researchers found that yeast induce multidrug resistance via a molecular switch similar to one that removes drugs and other foreign substances from human cells. When the yeast protein Pdr1p binds to antifungal drugs or other chemicals, it switches on molecular pumps that remove the drugs from the cell. The research team showed that this chemical switch also controls drug resistance in an important human pathogenic fungus, Candida glabrata. In humans, a protein called PXR is the drug sensor that turns on genes involved in detoxifying and removing drugs from cells.

This intriguing similarity between the regulatory switches controlling multidrug resistance in fungi and drug detoxification in humans will allow us to take advantage of the extensive knowledge of the human molecular switch and identify new therapies for resistant fungal infections in
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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