Molecular characterization of a fungal gasdermin-like protein

Asen Daskalov, Patrick S. Mitchell, Andrew Sandstrom, Russell E. Vance, N. Louise Glass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Programmed cell death (PCD) in filamentous fungi prevents cytoplasmic mixing following fusion between conspecific genetically distinct individuals (allorecognition) and serves as a defense mechanism against mycoparasitism, genome exploitation, and deleterious cytoplasmic elements (i.e., senescence plasmids). Recently, we identified regulator of cell death-1 (rcd-1), a gene controlling PCD in germinated asexual spores in the filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa. rcd-1 alleles are highly polymorphic and fall into two haplogroups in N. crassa populations. Coexpression of alleles from the two haplogroups, rcd-1-1 and rcd-1-2, is necessary and sufficient to trigger a cell death reaction. Here, we investigated the molecular bases of rcd-1-dependent cell death. Based on in silico analyses, we found that RCD-1 is a remote homolog of the N-terminal pore-forming domain of gasdermin, the executioner protein of a highly inflammatory cell death reaction termed pyroptosis, which plays a key role in mammalian innate immunity. We show that RCD-1 localizes to the cell periphery and that cellular localization of RCD-1 was correlated with conserved positively charged residues on predicted amphipathic α-helices, as shown for murine gasdermin-D. Similar to gasdermin, RCD-1 binds acidic phospholipids in vitro, notably, cardiolipin and phosphatidylserine, and interacts with liposomes containing such lipids. The RCD-1 incompatibility system was reconstituted in human 293T cells, where coexpression of incompatible rcd-1-1/rcd-1-2 alleles triggered pyroptotic-like cell death. Oligomers of RCD-1 were associated with the cell death reaction, further supporting the evolutionary relationship between gasdermin and rcd-1. This report documents an ancient transkingdom relationship of cell death execution modules involved in organismal defense.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18600-18607
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number31
StatePublished - Aug 4 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Gasdermin
  • Innate immunity
  • Neurospora
  • Programmed cell death
  • Pyroptosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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