Drugs under experimental and clinical research

Cell wall of pathogenic yeasts and implications for antimycotic therapy.

PMID 3527633


Yeast cell wall is a complex, multilayered structure where amorphous, granular and fibrillar components interact with each other to confer both the specific cell shape and osmotic protection against lysis. Thus it is widely recognized that as is the case with bacteria, yeast cell wall is a major potential target for selective chemotherapeutic drugs. Despite intensive research, very few such drugs have been discovered and none has found substantial application in human diseases to date. Among the different cell wall components, beta-glucan and chitin are the fibrillar materials playing a fundamental role in the overall rigidity and resistance of the wall. Inhibition of the metabolism of these polymers, therefore, should promptly lead to lysis. This indeed occurs and aculeacin, echinocandin and polyoxins are examples of agents producing such an action. Particular attention should be focused on chitin synthesis. Although quantitatively a minor cell wall component, chitin is important in the mechanism of dimorphic transition, especially in Candida albicans, a major human opportunistic pathogen. This transition is associated with increased invasiveness and general virulence of the fungus. Yeast cell wall may also limit the effect of antifungals which owe their action to disturbance of the cytoplasmic membrane or of cell metabolism. Indeed, the cell wall may hinder access to the cell interior both under growing conditions and, particularly, during cell ageing in the stationary phase, when important structural changes occur in the cell wall due to unbalanced wall growth (phenotypic drug resistance).