Targeting a critical step in fungal hexosamine biosynthesis

Deborah Lockhart (Lead / Corresponding author), Mathew Stanley, Olawale Raimi, David Robinson, Dominika Boldovjakova, Daniel Squair, Andrew Ferenbach, Wenxia Fang, Daan van Aalten (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
76 Downloads (Pure)


Aspergillus fumigatus is a human opportunistic fungal pathogen whose cell wall protects it from the extracellular environment including host defenses. Chitin, an essential component of the fungal cell wall, is synthesized from UDP-GlcNAc produced in the hexosamine biosynthetic pathway. As this pathway is critical for fungal cell wall integrity, the hexosamine biosynthesis enzymes represent potential targets of antifungal drugs. Here, we provide genetic and chemical evidence that glucosamine 6-phosphate N-acetyltransferase (Gna1), a key enzyme in this pathway, is an exploitable antifungal drug target. GNA1 deletion resulted in loss of fungal viability and disruption of the cell wall, phenotypes that could be rescued by exogenous GlcNAc, the product of the Gna1 enzyme. In a murine model of aspergillosis, the Δgna1 mutant strain exhibited attenuated virulence. Using a fragment-based approach, we discovered a small heterocyclic scaffold that binds proximal to the Gna1 active site and can be optimized to a selective submicromolar binder. Taken together, we have provided genetic, structural, and chemical evidence that Gna1 is an antifungal target in A. fumigatus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8678-8691
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number26
Early online date27 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2020


  • Aspergillus fumigatus
  • X-ray crystallography
  • antifungal drug development
  • cell wall
  • chitin
  • fragment
  • fungi
  • glucosamine 6-phosphate N-acetyltransferase (Gna1)
  • protein-protein interaction
  • resistance
  • virulence factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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