Katura Metzner, Matthew J. O’Meara,  Benjamin Halligan, Jesse W. Wotring, Jonathan Z. Sexton, Teresa R. O’Meara

Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  Vol. 67, No. 7

Publication date: June 29, 2023


Fungal pathogens like Candida albicans can cause devastating human disease. Treatment of candidemia is complicated by the high rate of resistance to common antifungal therapies. Additionally, there is host toxicity associated with many antifungal compounds due to the conservation between essential mammalian and fungal proteins. An attractive new approach for antimicrobial development is to target virulence factors: non-essential processes that are required for the organism to cause disease in human hosts. This approach expands the potential target space while reducing the selective pressure toward resistance, as these targets are not essential for viability. In C. albicans, a key virulence factor is the ability to transition to hyphal morphology. We developed a high-throughput image analysis pipeline to distinguish between yeast and filamentous growth in C. albicans at the single cell level. Based on this phenotypic assay, we screened the FDA drug repurposing library of 2,017 compounds for their ability to inhibit filamentation and identified 33 compounds that block the hyphal transition in C. albicans with IC50 values ranging from 0.2 to 150 μM. Multiple compounds showed a phenyl sulfone chemotype, prompting further analysis. Of these phenyl sulfones, NSC 697923 displayed the most efficacy, and by selecting for resistant mutants, we identified eIF3 as the target of NSC 697923 in C. albicans.

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