Medicinal genetics approach towards identifying the molecular target of a novel inhibitor of fungal cell wall assembly.
Glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored cell wall mannoproteins are required for the adhesion of pathogenic fungi, such as Candida albicans, to human epithelium. Small molecular inhibitors of the cell surface presentation of GPI-anchored mannoproteins would be promising candidate drugs to block the establishment of fungal infections. Here, we describe a medicinal genetics approach to identifying the gene encoding a novel target protein that is required for the localization of GPI-anchored cell wall mannoproteins. By means of a yeast cell-based screening procedure, we discovered a compound, 1-[4-butylbenzyl]isoquinoline (BIQ), that inhibits cell wall localization of GPI-anchored mannoproteins in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Treatment of C. albicans cells with this compound resulted in reduced adherence to a rat intestine epithelial cell monolayer. A previously uncharacterized gene YJL091c, named GWT1, was cloned as a dosage-dependent suppressor of the BIQ-induced phenotypes. GWT1 knock-out cells showed similar phenotypes to BIQ-treated wild-type cells in terms of cell wall structure and transcriptional profiles. Two different mutants resistant to BIQ each contained a single missense mutation in the coding region of the GWT1 gene. These results all suggest that the GWT1 gene product is the primary target of the compound.