Growth of Cryptococcus neoformans was inhibited by nine nitrogen and sulfur-containing sterols with a heteroatom positioned at C3, C7, C24, C25 or C32 in the lanostane frame. Analysis of the sterol composition of control and treated cells by GC-MS and 1H NMR has proven that the C-methylation reaction catalyzed by the sterol 24-C-methyltransferase (24-SMT) is the crucial first step in a kinetically favored pathway that fails to include obtusifoliol or zymosterol as intermediates. Cultures fed [methyl-2H3]methionine led to two deuterium atoms into each of the newly biosynthesized sterols forming a route lanosterol, eburicol (24(28)-methylene-24,25-dihydrolanosterol), 32-noreburicol and ergost-7-enol to ergosterol. Examination of the substrate specificity of a soluble 24-SMT from C. neoformans showed lanosterol to be the optimal acceptor molecule. Incubation with the test compounds generated induced amounts of lanosterol, eburicol or 32-noreburicol concurrent with a decrease of ergosterol. Among them 24(R,S),25-epiminolanosterol (inhibitor of 24-SMT) showed the most potent in vitro antifungal activity comparable to those of itraconazole (inhibitor of the 14-demethylase). Taken together, these data indicate that treatment with substrate-based inhibitors of 24-SMT, a catalyst not found in humans, can disrupt ergosterol homeostasis involved with fungal growth and therefore these compounds can provide leads for rational drug design of opportunistic pathogens.
- Amphotericin B
- Antifungal agent
- Ergosterol biosynthesis inhibitor
- Sterol methyl transferase