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Geisel School of Medicine


Trehalose biosynthesis is found in fungi but not humans. Proteins involved in trehalose biosynthesis are essential for fungal pathogen virulence in humans and plants through multiple mechanisms. Loss of canonical trehalose biosynthesis genes in the human pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus significantly alters cell wall structure and integrity, though the mechanistic link between these virulence-associated pathways remains enigmatic. Here we characterize genes, called tslAand tslB, which encode proteins that contain domains similar to those corresponding to trehalose-6-phosphate phosphatase but lack critical catalytic residues for phosphatase activity. Loss of tslA reduces trehalose content in both conidia and mycelia, impairs cell wall integrity, and significantly alters cell wall structure. To gain mechanistic insights into the role that TslA plays in cell wall homeostasis, immunoprecipitation assays coupled with liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) were used to reveal a direct interaction between TslA and CsmA, a type V chitin synthase enzyme. TslA regulates not only chitin synthase activity but also CsmA sub-cellular localization. Loss of TslA impacts the immunopathogenesis of murine invasive pulmonary aspergillosis through altering cytokine production and immune cell recruitment. In conclusion, our data provide a novel model whereby proteins in the trehalose pathway play a direct role in fungal cell wall homeostasis and consequently impact fungus-host interactions.