Phospholipids are an integral part of the cellular membrane structure and can be produced by a de novo biosynthetic pathway and, alternatively, by the Kennedy pathway. Studies in several yeast species have shown that the phospholipid phosphatidylserine (PS) is synthesized from CDP-diacylglycerol and serine, a route that is different from its synthesis in mammalian cells, involving a base-exchange reaction from preexisting phospholipids. Fungal-specific PS synthesis has been shown to play an important role in fungal virulence and has been proposed as an attractive drug target. However, PS synthase, which catalyzes this reaction, has not been studied in the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. Here, we identified and characterized the PS synthase homolog (Cn Cho1) in this fungus. Heterologous expression of Cn CHO1 in a Saccharomyces cerevisiae cho1 mutant rescued the mutant’s growth defect in the absence of ethanolamine supplementation. Moreover, an Sc cho1 mutant expressing Cn CHO1 had PS synthase activity, confirming that the Cn CHO1 encodes PS synthase. We also found that PS synthase in C. neoformans is localized to the endoplasmic reticulum and that it is essential for mitochondrial function and cell viability. Of note, its deficiency could not be complemented by ethanolamine or choline supplementation for the synthesis of phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) or phosphatidylcholine (PC) via the Kennedy pathway. These findings improve our understanding of phospholipid synthesis in a pathogenic fungus and indicate that PS synthase may be a useful target for antifungal drugs.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology