Objectives Invasive mould infections are associated with a high mortality rate and the emergence of MDR moulds is of particular concern. Calcineurin and its chaperone, the heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90), represent an important pathway for fungal virulence that can be targeted at different levels. We investigated the antifungal activity of compounds directly or indirectly targeting the Hsp90-calcineurin axis against different mould species.
Methods The in vitro antifungal activity of the anticalcineurin drug FK506 (tacrolimus), the Hsp90 inhibitor geldanamycin, the lysine deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A and the Hsp70 inhibitor pifithrin-μ was assessed by the standard broth dilution method against 62 clinical isolates ofAspergillus spp. and non-Aspergillus moulds (Mucoromycotina, Fusariumspp., Scedosporium spp., Purpureocillium/Paecilomyces spp. andScopulariopsis spp.)
Results FK506 had variable antifungal activity against different Aspergillusspp. and was particularly active against Mucor spp. Geldanamycin had moderate antifungal activity against Fusarium spp. and Paecilomyces variotii. Importantly, trichostatin A had good activity against the triazole-resistant Aspergillus ustus and the amphotericin B-resistant Aspergillus terreus as well as the MDR Scedosporium prolificans. Moreover, trichostatin A exhibited synergistic interactions with caspofungin againstA. ustus and with geldanamycin against Rhizopus spp. for which none of the other agents showed activity. Pifithrin-μ exhibited little antifungal activity.
Conclusions Targeting the Hsp90-calcineurin axis at different levels resulted in distinct patterns of susceptibility among different fungal species. Lysine deacetylase inhibition may represent a promising novel antifungal strategy against emerging resistant moulds.