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Cryptococcus neoformans, a basidiomycetous yeast, is a fungal pathogen that can colonize the lungs of humans causing pneumonia and fungal meningitis in severely immunocompromised individuals. Recent studies have implied that the antifungal drug fluconazole (FLC) can induce oxidative stress in C. neoformans by increasing the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), as presence of the antioxidant ascorbic acid (AA) could reverse the inhibitory effects of FLC on C. neoformans. However, in Candida albicans, AA has been shown to stimulate the expression of genes essential for ergosterol biosynthesis. Hence, the contribution of ROS in FLC-mediated growth inhibition remains unclear.
In order to determine whether counteracting ROS generated by FLC in C. neoformans can contribute to diminishing inhibitory effects of FLC, we tested three other antioxidants in addition to AA, namely, pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate (PDTC), retinoic acid (RA), and glutathione (GSH). Our data confirm that there is an increase in ROS in the presence of FLC in C. neoformans. Importantly, all four antioxidants reversed FLC-mediated growth inhibition of C. neoformans to various extents. We further verified the involvement of increased ROS in FLC-mediated growth inhibition by determining that ROS-scavenging proteins, metallothioneins (CMT1 and CMT2), contribute to growth recovery by PDTC and AA during treatment with FLC.
Our study suggests that ROS contributes to FLC-mediated growth inhibition and points to a complex nature of antioxidant-mediated growth rescue in the presence of FLC.
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Dbouk, N.H., Covington, M.B., Nguyen, K. et al. Increase of reactive oxygen species contributes to growth inhibition by fluconazole in Cryptococcus neoformans. BMC Microbiol 19, 243 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12866-019-1606-4