Candida albicans is a leading human fungal pathogen that causes life-threatening systemic infections. A key regulator of C. albicans stress response, drug resistance, morphogenesis, and virulence is the molecular chaperone Hsp90. Targeting Hsp90 provides a powerful strategy to treat fungal infections, however, the therapeutic utility of current inhibitors is compromised by toxicity due to inhibition of host Hsp90. To identify components of the Hsp90-dependent circuitry governing virulence and drug resistance that are sufficiently divergent for selective targeting in the pathogen, we pioneered chemical genomic profiling of the Hsp90 genetic network in C. albicans. Here, we screen mutant collections covering ~10% of the genome for hypersensitivity to Hsp90 inhibition in multiple environmental conditions. We identify 158 HSP90 chemical genetic interactors, most of which are important for growth only in specific environments. We discovered that the sterol C-22 desaturase gene ERG5 and the phosphatidylinositol-4-kinase (PI4K) gene STT4 are HSP90 genetic interactors under multiple conditions, suggesting a function upstream of Hsp90. By systematic analysis of the ergosterol biosynthetic cascade, we demonstrate that defects in ergosterol biosynthesis induce cellular stress that overwhelms Hsp90's functional capacity. By analysis of the phosphatidylinositol pathway, we demonstrate that there is a genetic interaction between the PI4K Stt4 and Hsp90. We also establish that Stt4 is required for normal actin polarization through regulation of Wal1, and suggest a model in which defects in actin remodeling induces stress that creates a cellular demand for Hsp90 that exceeds its functional capacity. Consistent with this model, actin inhibitors are synergistic with Hsp90 inhibitors. We highlight new connections between Hsp90 and virulence traits, demonstrating that Erg5 and Stt4 enable activation of macrophage pyroptosis. This work uncovers novel circuitry regulating Hsp90 functional capacity and new effectors governing drug resistance, morphogenesis and virulence, revealing new targets for antifungal drug development.
O'Meara, T., Veri, A., Polvi, E., Li, X., Valaei, S., Diezmann, S., & Cowen, L. E. (2016). Mapping the Hsp90 Genetic Network Reveals Ergosterol Biosynthesis and Phosphatidylinositol-4-Kinase Signaling as Core Circuitry Governing Cellular Stress. PLoS Genetics, 12(6), e1006142. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1006142