Comparative genomics of pneumocystis species suggests the absence of genes for myo-inositol synthesis and reliance on inositol transport and metabolism.

PMID 25370490


In the context of deciphering the metabolic strategies of the obligate pathogenic fungi in the genus Pneumocystis, the genomes of three species (P. carinii, P. murina, and P. jirovecii) were compared among themselves and with the free-living, phylogenetically related fission yeast (Schizosaccharomyces pombe). The underrepresentation of amino acid metabolism pathways compared to those in S. pombe, as well as the incomplete steroid biosynthesis pathway, were confirmed for P. carinii and P. jirovecii and extended to P. murina. All three Pneumocystis species showed overrepresentation of the inositol phosphate metabolism pathway compared to that in the fission yeast. In addition to those known in S. pombe, four genes, encoding inositol-polyphosphate multikinase (EC, inositol-pentakisphosphate 2-kinase (EC, phosphoinositide 5-phosphatase (EC, and inositol-1,4-bisphosphate 1-phosphatase (EC, were identified in the two rodent Pneumocystis genomes, P. carinii and P. murina. The P. jirovecii genome appeared to contain three of these genes but lacked phosphoinositide 5-phosphatase. Notably, two genes encoding enzymes essential for myo-inositol synthesis, inositol-1-phosphate synthase (INO1) and inositol monophosphatase (INM1), were absent from all three genomes, suggesting that Pneumocystis species are inositol auxotrophs. In keeping with the need to acquire exogenous inositol, two genes with products homologous to fungal inositol transporters, ITR1 and ITR2, were identified in P. carinii and P. murina, while P. jirovecii contained only the ITR1 homolog. The ITR and inositol metabolism genes in P. murina and P. carinii were expressed during fulminant infection as determined by reverse transcriptase real-time PCR of cDNA from infected lung tissue. Supplementation of in vitro culture with inositol yielded significant improvement of the viability of P. carinii for days 7 through 14. Microbes in the genus Pneumocystis are obligate pathogenic fungi that reside in mammalian lungs and cause Pneumocystis pneumonia in hosts with weakened immune systems. These fungal infections are not responsive to standard antifungal therapy. A long-term in vitro culture system is not available for these fungi, impeding the study of their biology and genetics and new drug development. Given that all genomes of the Pneumocystis species analyzed lack the genes for inositol synthesis and contain inositol transporters, Pneumocystis fungi, like S. pombe, appear to be inositol auxotrophs. Inositol is important for the pathogenesis, virulence, and mating processes in Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans, suggesting similar importance within the Pneumocystis species as well. This is the first report to (i) characterize genes in the inositol phosphate metabolism and transport pathways in Pneumocystis species and (ii) identify inositol as a supplement that improved the viability of P. carinii in in vitro culture.