SREBP transcription factors play a critical role in fungal virulence; however, the mechanisms of sterol regulatory element binding protein (SREBP) activation in pathogenic fungi remains ill-defined. Screening of the Neurospora crassa whole-genome deletion collection for genes involved in hypoxia responses identified a gene for an uncharacterized rhomboid protease homolog, rbdB, required for growth under hypoxic conditions. Loss of rbdB in Aspergillus fumigatus also inhibited growth under hypoxic conditions. In addition, the A. fumigatus ΔrbdB strain also displayed phenotypes consistent with defective SREBP activity, including increased azole drug susceptibility, reduced siderophore production, and full loss of virulence. Expression of the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) DNA binding domain of the SREBP SrbA in ΔrbdB restored all of the phenotypes linking RdbB activity with SrbA function. Furthermore, the N-terminal domain of SrbA containing the bHLH DNA binding region was absent from ΔrbdB under inducing conditions, suggesting that RbdB regulates the protein levels of this important transcription factor. As SrbA controls clinically relevant aspects of fungal pathobiology in A. fumigatus, understanding the mechanisms of SrbA activation provides opportunities to target this pathway for therapeutic development.
Dhingra, Sourabh; Kowlaski, Caitlin H.; Thammahong, Arsa; Beattie, Sarah R.; Bultman, Katherine M.; and Cramer, Robert A., "Rbdb, a Rhomboid Protease Critical for SREBP Activation and Virulence in Aspergillus Fumigatus" (2016). Open Dartmouth: Faculty Open Access Articles. 3143.