Inhibiting fungal multidrug resistance by disrupting an activator-Mediator interaction

Brunella Posteraro, Maurizio Sanguinetti, Riccardo Torelli, Joy L. Nishikawa, Andras Boeszoermenyi, Luis A. Vale-Silva, Yoo-Jin Sohn, Fei Ji, Vladimir Gelev, Dominique Sanglard, Ruslan I. Sadreyev, Goutam Mukherjee, Jayaram Bhyravabhotla, Sara J. Buhrlage, Nathanael S. Gray, Gerhard Wagner, Anders M. Naar, Haribabu Arthanari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

71 Citations (Scopus)


Eukaryotic transcription activators stimulate the expression of specific sets of target genes through recruitment of co-activators such as the RNA polymerase II-interacting Mediator complex. Aberrant function of transcription activators has been implicated in several diseases. However, therapeutic targeting efforts have been hampered by a lack of detailed molecular knowledge of the mechanisms of gene activation by disease-associated transcription activators. We previously identified an activator-targeted three-helix bundle KIX domain in the human MED15 Mediator subunit that is structurally conserved in Gal11/Med15 Mediator subunits in fungi. The Gal11/Med15 KIX domain engages pleiotropic drug resistance transcription factor (Pdr1) orthologues, which are key regulators of the multidrug resistance pathway in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and in the clinically important human pathogen Candida glabrata. The prevalence of C. glabrata is rising, partly owing to its low intrinsic susceptibility to azoles, the most widely used antifungal agent. Drug-resistant clinical isolates of C. glabrata most commonly contain point mutations in Pdr1 that render it constitutively active, suggesting that this transcriptional activation pathway represents a linchpin in C. glabrata multidrug resistance. Here we perform sequential biochemical and in vivo high-throughput screens to identify small-molecule inhibitors of the interaction of the C. glabrata Pdr1 activation domain with the C. glabrata Gal11A KIX domain. The lead compound (iKIX1) inhibits Pdr1-dependent gene activation and re-sensitizes drug-resistant C. glabrata to azole antifungals in vitro and in animal models for disseminated and urinary tract C. glabrata infection. Determining the NMR structure of the C. glabrata Gal11A KIX domain provides a detailed understanding of the molecular mechanism of Pdr1 gene activation and multidrug resistance inhibition by iKIX1. We have demonstrated the feasibility of small-molecule targeting of a transcription factor-binding site in Mediator as a novel therapeutic strategy in fungal infectious disease.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)N/A-N/A
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Candida glabrata

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