mBio. 2021 Jul 27:e0168221. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01682-21. Online ahead of print.
Aspergillus fumigatus is a major opportunistic fungal pathogen of immunocompromised and immunocompetent hosts. To successfully establish an infection, A. fumigatus needs to use host carbon sources, such as acetate, present in the body fluids and peripheral tissues. However, utilization of acetate as a carbon source by fungi in the context of infection has not been investigated. This work shows that acetate is metabolized via different pathways in A. fumigatus and that acetate utilization is under the regulatory control of a transcription factor (TF), FacB. A. fumigatus acetate utilization is subject to carbon catabolite repression (CCR), although this is only partially dependent on the TF and main regulator of CCR CreA. The available extracellular carbon source, in this case glucose and acetate, significantly affected A. fumigatus virulence traits such as secondary metabolite secretion and cell wall composition, with the latter having consequences for resistance to oxidative stress, antifungal drugs, and human neutrophil-mediated killing. Furthermore, deletion of facB significantly impaired the in vivo virulence of A. fumigatus in both insect and mammalian models of invasive aspergillosis. This is the first report on acetate utilization in A. fumigatus, and this work further highlights the importance of available host-specific carbon sources in shaping fungal virulence traits and subsequent disease outcome, and a potential target for the development of antifungal strategies. IMPORTANCE Aspergillus fumigatus is an opportunistic fungal pathogen in humans. During infection, A. fumigatus is predicted to use host carbon sources, such as acetate, present in body fluids and peripheral tissues, to sustain growth and promote colonization and invasion. This work shows that A. fumigatus metabolizes acetate via different pathways, a process that is dependent on the transcription factor FacB. Furthermore, the type and concentration of the extracellular available carbon source were determined to shape A. fumigatus virulence determinants such as secondary metabolite secretion and cell wall composition. Subsequently, interactions with immune cells are altered in a carbon source-specific manner. FacB is required for A. fumigatus in vivo virulence in both insect and mammalian models of invasive aspergillosis. This is the first report that characterizes acetate utilization in A. fumigatus and highlights the importance of available host-specific carbon sources in shaping virulence traits and potentially subsequent disease outcome.