Journal Reference: Aruanno, M., Bachmann, D., Sanglard, D., & Lamoth, F. (2019). Link between Heat Shock Protein 90 and the Mitochondrial Respiratory Chain in the Caspofungin Stress Response of Aspergillus fumigatus. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 63(7), e00208-19. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00208-19

In recent years, the incidence and severity of fungal infections caused by Aspergillus fumigatus have raised global concerns, particularly among immunocompromised individuals. This has primarily been attributed to the emergence of resistance against frontline antifungal drugs, rendering treatments less effective and highlighting the urgency for innovative research into the mechanisms of antifungal resistance. A groundbreaking study published in “Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy” brings new insight into the molecular battlefield existing between A. fumigatus and antifungal agents, particularly, caspofungin, an echinocandin-type drug.

The research conducted by Aruanno et al. (2019) provides compelling evidence for the involvement of Heat Shock Protein 90 (Hsp90) and the mitochondrial respiratory chain of A. fumigatus in the organism’s response to antifungal stress induced by caspofungin. In this article, we will delve into the intricate processes and potential therapeutic implications of these findings that shine a light on the adaptability of A. fumigatus when confronted with hostile environments created by antifungal treatments.

The pivotal study: a deeper look into A. fumigatus’ defense mechanisms

With the soaring rates of invasive aspergillosis, understanding how A. fumigatus adapts and survives antifungal treatment is crucial. The study by Aruanno et al. represents a significant step forward. The researchers focused on the mitochondrial respiratory chain – particularly NADH-ubiquinone oxidoreductases – and molecular chaperone Hsp90, both of which were hypothesized to play a role in the stress response of A. fumigatus to caspofungin.

Heat Shock Protein 90 is a molecular chaperone responsible for the proper folding and function of many proteins within the cell, including those involved in signal transduction, proliferation, and survival. Its role in the evolution of resistance among various fungal species has been demonstrated in the past, but this study is among the first to link it to the mitochondrial respiratory processes under echinocandin-induced stress. The researchers employed transcriptomics analysis and use of the complex I inhibitor rotenone to unravel the processes that take place in the fungal cells.

Case study findings and implications

The scientists discovered an increased expression of hsp90 and components of the mitochondrial respiratory chain in A. fumigatus cells upon exposure to caspofungin. This finding points towards a complex adaptive response aiming to counteract the antifungal’s inhibitory effects. Remarkably, inhibiting heat shock protein Hsp90 proved to enhance the susceptibility of A. fumigatus to caspofungin, suggesting that Hsp90 inhibitors could potentially act as adjuvant therapies to overcome drug resistance.

Furthermore, when the team used rotenone to block the mitochondrial electron transport chain, they observed a similar trend of increased sensitivity to caspofungin. It appears that the proper functioning of the mitochondrial respiratory chain is crucial for the antifungal stress response, indicating that mitochondria-targeting drugs could weaken A. fumigatus’ defenses.

Potential impact on the clinical management of aspergillosis

The team’s research offers novel therapeutic avenues. Effective combination therapies that include Hsp90 inhibitors or drugs targeting mitochondrial function could be key in managing antifungal resistance. As A. fumigatus’ coping mechanisms become clearer, tailored treatments that disrupt these processes can be developed, potentially improving outcomes for those battling invasive aspergillosis.

The broader context of antifungal resistance

A. fumigatus resistance to antifungals is not an isolated phenomenon. Published data from surveillance studies like TRANSNET and international collaborations have underscored a wider issue of emerging resistance among various pathogens. Invasive fungal infections present a significant challenge in clinical settings, especially given the limited arsenal of antifungal drugs. The findings from Aruanno et al.’s study are timely and contribute significant knowledge to the field.

Future directions for research

While this study opens up new possibilities, more research is necessary to understand the interplay between Hsp90, mitochondrial function, and antifungal resistance fully. Additional studies should explore the specific signaling pathways involved and the potential for clinical use of combination therapies.

Challenges and controversies

Although the study shines light on promising strategies to combat resistance, implementing them in a clinical setting may be complex. Questions about the safety, efficacy, and drug interactions of combination therapies with inhibitors of Hsp90 or mitochondrial function are yet to be answered.


As evidenced by the research of Aruanno et al., deciphering the stress response of A. fumigatus to caspofungin is integral to developing strategies to combat antifungal resistance. The link between Heat Shock Protein 90 and the mitochondrial respiratory chain could provide a foundation for novel antifungal therapies and combinational treatments that may revolutionize the treatment of aspergillosis.


1. Aruanno, M., Bachmann, D., Sanglard, D., & Lamoth, F. (2019). Link between Heat Shock Protein 90 and the Mitochondrial Respiratory Chain in the Caspofungin Stress Response of Aspergillus fumigatus. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 63(7), e00208-19. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00208-19
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4. Ullmann, A. J., et al. (2018). Diagnosis and management of Aspergillus diseases: executive summary of the 2017 ESCMID-ECMM-ERS guideline. Clinical Microbiology and Infection, 24(Suppl 1), e1–e38. doi: 10.1016/j.cmi.2018.01.002
5. Lamoth, F., et al. (2014). Transcriptional activation of heat shock protein 90 mediated via a proximal promoter region as trigger of caspofungin resistance in Aspergillus fumigatus. Journal of Infectious Diseases, 209(3), 473–481. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jit530


1. Antifungal resistance
2. Heat Shock Protein 90
3. Aspergillus fumigatus
4. Echinocandins
5. Mitochondrial function in fungi