Pneumocystis pneumonia remains the most common AIDS-defining opportunistic infection in people with HIV. The process by which Pneumocystis carinii constructs its cell wall is not well known, although recent studies reveal that molecules such as β-1-3-glucan synthetase (GSC1) and environmental pH-responsive genes such as PHR1 are important for cell-wall integrity. In closely related fungi, a specific mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade regulates cell-wall assembly in response to elevated temperature. The upstream mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase (MAPKKK, or MEKK), BCK1, is an essential component in this pathway for maintaining cell-wall integrity and preventing fungal cell lysis. We have identified a P. carinii MEKK gene and have expressed it in Saccharomyces cerevisiae to gain insights into its function. The P. carinii MEKK, PCBCK1, corrects the temperature-sensitive cell lysis defect of bck1Δ yeast. Further, at elevated temperature PCBCK1 restored the signaling defect in bck1Δ yeast to maintain expression of the temperature-inducible β-1-3-glucan synthetase gene, FKS2. PCBCK1, as a functional kinase, is capable of autophosphorylation and substrate phosphorylation. Since glucan machinery is not present in mammals, a better understanding of this pathway in P. carinii might aid in the development of novel medications which interfere with the integrity of the Pneumocystis cell wall.
- Mitogen-activated protein kinase
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Structural Biology
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology