Lipid droplets (LDs) act as intracellular storage organelles in most types of cells and are principally involved in energy homeostasis and lipid metabolism. However, the role of LDs in resistance to toxins in fungi remains largely unknown. Here, we show that the trapping of endogenous toxins by LDs is a self-resistance mechanism in the toxin producer, while absorbing external lipophilic toxins is a resistance mechanism in the toxin recipient that acts to quench the production of reactive oxygen species. We found that an endolichenic fungus that generates phototoxic perylenequinones (PQs) trapped the PQs inside LDs. Using a model that incorporates the fungicidal action of hypocrellin A (HA), a PQ derivative, we showed that yeast cells escaped killing by trapping toxins inside LDs. Furthermore, LD-deficient mutants were hypersusceptible to HA-mediated phototoxins and other fungicides. Our study identified a previously unrecognised function of LDs in fungi that has implications for our understanding of environmental adaptation strategies for fungi and antifungal drug discovery.
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