Kronstad Lab

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Fungal pathogens threaten human health both directly as infectious agents and indirectly by limiting crop production, and new approaches are desperately needed to combat fungal diseases [1]. There is a growing appreciation that mitochondrial functions contribute to the ability of fungal pathogens to cause disease and may be promising targets for new therapeutic approaches [2,3]. A number of excellent reviews provide insights into the roles of mitochondria in fungal pathogens; readers are directed to these reviews for information on connections between mitochondria and virulence, antifungal drug resistance and susceptibility, and cell wall synthesis [48]. Our intention in this review is to focus on recent studies that highlight mitochondrial connections to virulence, metal homeostasis, the response to stress, and metabolic adaptation, as summarized in Fig 1, for a selected set of fungi that are major agents of human disease: Aspergillus fumigatusCandida albicans, and Cryptococcus neoformans [9]. Afumigatus is the causative agent of noninvasive pulmonary infections (aspergillomas and chronic aspergillosis), allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, and invasive pulmonary aspergillosis. Calbicans is a commensal in the human gut but can cause invasive candidiasis of the blood stream and internal organs, as well as diseases involving mucosal surfaces. Infections with Cneoformans generally begin in lung tissue, but the fungus has a propensity to disseminate to the brain to cause meningoencephalitis, a disease that is highly prevalent and often fatal in the HIV/AIDS population. These fungi have aerobic lifestyles dependent on mitochondria, and the involvement of the electron transport chain (ETC) emerges as a common theme in their ability to cause disease (Fig 2) [5,10,11].