The dimorphic fungi of the Paracoccidioides genus are the causative agents of paracoccidioidomycosis (PCM). This disease is endemic in Latin America and primarily affects workers in rural areas. PCM is considered a neglected disease, despite being a disabling disease that has a notable impact on the public health system. Paracoccidioides spp. are thermally dimorphic fungi that present infective mycelia at 25 °C and differentiate into pathogenic yeast forms at 37 °C. This transition involves a series of morphological, structural, and metabolic changes which are essential for their survival inside hosts. As a pathogen, the fungus is subjected to several varieties of stress conditions, including the host immune response, which involves the production of reactive nitrogen and oxygen species, thermal stress due to temperature changes during the transition, pH alterations within phagolysosomes, and hypoxia inside granulomas. Over the years, studies focusing on understanding the establishment and development of PCM have been conducted with several limitations due to the low effectiveness of strategies for the genetic manipulation of Paracoccidioides spp. This review describes the most relevant biological features of Paracoccidioides spp., including aspects of the phylogeny, ecology, stress response, infection, and evasion mechanisms of the fungus. We also discuss the genetic aspects and difficulties of fungal manipulation, and, finally, describe the advances in molecular biology that may be employed in molecular research on this fungus in the future.
Dimorphic fungi of the Paracoccidioides genus are the causative agents of paracoccidioidomycosis (PCM), an endemic disease in Latin America with a high incidence in Brazil. This pathogen presents as infective mycelium at 25 °C in the soil, reverting to its pathogenic form when inhaled by the mammalian host (37 °C). Among these dimorphic fungal species, dimorphism regulating histidine kinase (Drk1) plays an essential role in the morphological transition. These kinases are present in bacteria and fungi but absent in mammalian cells and are important virulence and cellular survival regulators. Hence, the purpose of this study was to investigate the role of PbDrk1 in the cell wall modulation of P. brasiliensis. We observed that PbDrk1 participates in fungal resistance to different cell wall-disturbing agents by reducing viability after treatment with iDrk1. To verify the role of PbDRK1 in cell wall morphogenesis, qPCR results showed that samples previously exposed to iDrk1 presented higher expression levels of several genes related to cell wall modulation. One of them was FKS1, a β-glucan synthase that showed a 3.6-fold increase. Furthermore, confocal microscopy analysis and flow cytometry showed higher β-glucan exposure on the cell surface of P. brasiliensis after incubation with iDrk1. Accordingly, through phagocytosis assays, a significantly higher phagocytic index was observed in yeasts treated with iDrk1 than the control group, demonstrating the role of PbDrk1 in cell wall modulation, which then becomes a relevant target to be investigated. In parallel, the immune response profile showed increased levels of proinflammatory cytokines. Finally, our data strongly suggest that PbDrk1 modulates cell wall component expression, among which we can identify β-glucan. Understanding this signalling pathway may be of great value for identifying targets of antifungal molecular activity since HKs are not present in mammals.
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