Open Access Research article

Calcium/calmodulin kinase1 and its relation to thermotolerance and HSP90 in Sporothrix schenckii: an RNAi and yeast two-hybrid study

Jorge Rodriguez-Caban1, Waleska Gonzalez-Velazquez1, Lizaida Perez-Sanchez1, Ricardo Gonzalez-Mendez2 and Nuri Rodriguez-del Valle1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Microbiology and Medical Zoology, Medical Sciences Campus, University of Puerto Rico, PO Box 365067, San Juan, PR 00936-5067, USA

2 Department of Radiological Sciences, Medical Sciences Campus, University of Puerto Rico, PO Box 365067, San Juan, PR 00936-5067, USA

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BMC Microbiology 2011, 11:162  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-11-162

Published: 11 July 2011

Abstract

Background

Sporothrix schenckii is a pathogenic dimorphic fungus of worldwide distribution. It grows in the saprophytic form with hyaline, regularly septated hyphae and pyriform conidia at 25°C and as the yeast or parasitic form at 35°C. Previously, we characterized a calcium/calmodulin kinase in this fungus. Inhibitors of this kinase were observed to inhibit the yeast cell cycle in S. schenckii.

Results

The presence of RNA interference (RNAi) mechanism in this fungus was confirmed by the identification of a Dicer-1 homologue in S. schenckii DNA. RNAi technology was used to corroborate the role of calcium/calmodulin kinase I in S. schenckii dimorphism. Yeast cells were transformed with the pSilent-Dual2G (pSD2G) plasmid w/wo inserts of the coding region of the calcium/calmodulin kinase I (sscmk1) gene. Transformants were selected at 35°C using resistance to geneticin. Following transfer to liquid medium at 35°C, RNAi transformants developed as abnormal mycelium clumps and not as yeast cells as would be expected. The level of sscmk1 gene expression in RNAi transformants at 35°C was less than that of cells transformed with the empty pSD2G at this same temperature. Yeast two-hybrid analysis of proteins that interact with SSCMK1 identified a homologue of heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) as interacting with this kinase. Growth of the fungus similar to that of the RNAi transformants was observed in medium with geldanamycin (GdA, 10 μM), an inhibitor of HSP90.

Conclusions

Using the RNAi technology we silenced the expression of sscmk1 gene in this fungus. RNAi transformants were unable to grow as yeast cells at 35°C showing decreased tolerance to this temperature. The interaction of SSCMK1 with HSP90, observed using the yeast two-hybrid assay suggests that this kinase is involved in thermotolerance through its interaction with HSP90. SSCMK1 interacted with the C terminal domain of HSP90 where effector proteins and co-chaperones interact. These results confirmed SSCMK1 as an important enzyme involved in the dimorphism of S. schenckii, necessary for the development of the yeast phase of this fungus. Also this study constitutes the first report of the transformation of S. schenckii and the use of RNAi to study gene function in this fungus.