Microbiol Spectr. 2022 Feb 2:e0206321. doi: 10.1128/spectrum.02063-21. Online ahead of print.
Septation in filamentous fungi is a normal part of development, which involves the formation of cross-hyphal bulkheads, typically containing pores, allowing cytoplasmic streaming between compartments. Based on previous findings regarding septa and cell wall stress, we hypothesized that septa are critical for survival during cell wall stress. To test this hypothesis, we used known Aspergillus nidulans septation-deficient mutants (ΔsepH, Δbud3, Δbud4, and Δrho4) and six antifungal compounds. Three of these compounds (micafungin, Congo red, and calcofluor white) are known cell wall stressors which activate the cell wall integrity signaling pathway (CWIS), while the three others (cycloheximide, miconazole, and 2,3-butanedione monoxime) perturb specific cellular processes not explicitly related to the cell wall. Our results show that deficiencies in septation lead to fungi which are more susceptible to cell wall-perturbing compounds but are no more susceptible to other antifungal compounds than a control. This implies that septa play a critical role in surviving cell wall stress. IMPORTANCE The ability to compartmentalize potentially lethal damage via septation appears to provide filamentous fungi with a facile means to tolerate diverse forms of stress. However, it remains unknown whether this mechanism is deployed in response to all forms of stress or is limited to specific perturbations. Our results support the latter possibility by showing that presence of septa promotes survival in response to cell wall damage but plays no apparent role in coping with other unrelated forms of stress. Given that cell wall damage is a primary effect caused by exposure to the echinocandin class of antifungal agents, our results emphasize the important role that septa might play in enabling resistance to these drugs. Accordingly, the inhibition of septum formation could conceivably represent an attractive approach to potentiating the effects of echinocandins and mitigating resistance in human fungal pathogens.