Use of Bulk Segregant Analysis for Determining the Genetic Basis of Azole Resistance in the Opportunistic Pathogen <em>Aspergillus fumigatus</em>
Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2022 Apr 5;12:841138. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2022.841138. eCollection 2022.
A sexual cycle was described in 2009 for the opportunistic fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus, opening up for the first time the possibility of using techniques reliant on sexual crossing for genetic analysis. The present study was undertaken to evaluate whether the technique ‘bulk segregant analysis’ (BSA), which involves detection of differences between pools of progeny varying in a particular trait, could be applied in conjunction with next-generation sequencing to investigate the underlying basis of monogenic traits in A. fumigatus. Resistance to the azole antifungal itraconazole was chosen as a model, with a dedicated bioinformatic pipeline developed to allow identification of SNPs that differed between the resistant progeny pool and resistant parent compared to the sensitive progeny pool and parent. A clinical isolate exhibiting monogenic resistance to itraconazole of unknown basis was crossed to a sensitive parent and F1 progeny used in BSA. In addition, the use of backcrossing and increasing the number in progeny pools was evaluated as ways to enhance the efficiency of BSA. Use of F1 pools of 40 progeny led to the identification of 123 candidate genes with SNPs distributed over several contigs when aligned to an A1163 reference genome. Successive rounds of backcrossing enhanced the ability to identify specific genes and a genomic region, with BSA of progeny (using 40 per pool) from a third backcross identifying 46 genes with SNPs, and BSA of progeny from a sixth backcross identifying 20 genes with SNPs in a single 292 kb region of the genome. The use of an increased number of 80 progeny per pool also increased the resolution of BSA, with 29 genes demonstrating SNPs between the different sensitive and resistant groupings detected using progeny from just the second backcross with the majority of variants located on the same 292 kb region. Further bioinformatic analysis of the 292 kb region identified the presence of a cyp51A gene variant resulting in a methionine to lysine (M220K) change in the CYP51A protein, which was concluded to be the causal basis of the observed resistance to itraconazole. The future use of BSA in genetic analysis of A. fumigatus is discussed.