Tunicamycin potentiates antifungal drug tolerance via aneuploidy in candida albicans

Feng Yang, Vladimir Gritsenko, Yaniv Slor Futterman, Lu Gao, Cheng Zhen, Hui Lu, Yuan Ying Jiang*, Judith Berman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How cells exposed to one stress are later able to better survive other types of stress is not well understood. In eukaryotic organisms, physiological and pathological stresses can disturb endoplasmic reticulum (ER) function, resulting in “ER stress.” Here, we found that exposure to tunicamycin, an inducer of ER stress, resulted in the acquisition of a specific aneuploidy, chromosome 2 trisomy (Chr2x3), in Candida albicans. Importantly, the resulting aneuploidy also conferred cross-tolerance to caspofungin, a first-line echino-candin antifungal, as well as to hydroxyurea, a common chemotherapeutic agent. Exposure to a range of tunicamycin concentrations induced similar ER stress responses. Extra copies of one Chr2 gene, MKK2, affected both tunicamycin and caspofungin tolerance, while at least 3 genes on chromosome 2 (ALG7, RTA2, and RTA3) affected only tunicamycin and not caspofungin responses. Other Chr2 genes (RNR1 and RNR21) affected hydroxyurea tolerance but neither tunicamycin nor caspofungin tolerance. Deletion of components of the protein kinase C (PKC) or calcineurin pathways affected tolerance to both tunicamycin and cas-pofungin, supporting the idea that the ER stress response and echinocandin tolerance are regulated by overlapping stress response pathways. Thus, antifungal drug tolerance can arise rapidly via ER stress-induced aneuploidy. IMPORTANCE Candida albicans is a prevalent human fungal commensal and also a pathogen that causes life-threatening systemic infections. Treatment failures are frequent because few therapeutic antifungal drug classes are available and because drug resistance and tolerance limit drug efficacy. We found that C. albicans rapidly overcomes the cellular stress induced by the drug tunicamycin by duplicating chromosome 2. Also, chromosome 2 duplication confers tolerance not only to tunicamycin but also to the following two unrelated drugs: caspofungin, an antifungal drug, and hydroxyurea, a chemotherapeutic. Cross tolerance to the three drugs involves different sets of genes, although some genetic pathways affect the tolerance to two of these three drugs. This work highlights a serious concern, namely, that changes in whole chromosome copy number can occur in response to one type of stress, and yet, they may facilitate the emergence of tolerance to multiple drugs, including the few antifungal drug classes available to treat Candida infections.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02272-21
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Antifungal tolerance
  • Cross-adaptation
  • Stress response
  • Trisomy


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