Infection and immunity

Histoplasma capsulatum depends on de novo vitamin biosynthesis for intraphagosomal proliferation.

PMID 24191299


During infection of the mammalian host, Histoplasma capsulatum yeasts survive and reside within macrophages of the immune system. Whereas some intracellular pathogens escape into the host cytosol, Histoplasma yeasts remain within the macrophage phagosome. This intracellular Histoplasma-containing compartment imposes nutritional challenges for yeast growth and replication. We identified and annotated vitamin synthesis pathways encoded in the Histoplasma genome and confirmed by growth in minimal medium that Histoplasma yeasts can synthesize all essential vitamins with the exception of thiamine. Riboflavin, pantothenate, and biotin auxotrophs of Histoplasma were generated to probe whether these vitamins are available to intracellular yeasts. Disruption of the RIB2 gene (riboflavin biosynthesis) prevented growth and proliferation of yeasts in macrophages and severely attenuated Histoplasma virulence in a murine model of respiratory histoplasmosis. Rib2-deficient yeasts were not cleared from lung tissue but persisted, consistent with functional survival mechanisms but inability to replicate in vivo. In addition, depletion of Pan6 (pantothenate biosynthesis) but not Bio2 function (biotin synthesis) also impaired Histoplasma virulence. These results indicate that the Histoplasma-containing phagosome is limiting for riboflavin and pantothenate and that Histoplasma virulence requires de novo synthesis of these cofactor precursors. Since mammalian hosts do not rely on vitamin synthesis but instead acquire essential vitamins through diet, vitamin synthesis pathways represent druggable targets for therapeutics.